Maryland is paying out $9.5 million — on top of $13 million paid previously — to thousands of correctional workers who were systematically shorted on their paychecks for years, likely one of the biggest correctional wage theft settlements in the nation.

About 6,000 current and former state correctional officers were paid thousands of dollars that they missed out on, representing the overwhelming majority of officers working in state-run prisons and jails, according to their union.

Patrick Moran, president of the union, placed the blame squarely on former Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who was in office for the 2018-2021 time period covered by the settlement.

“I want to remind everyone how we got here today,” said Moran, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for Maryland. “Former Gov. Larry Hogan and his administration orchestrated a scheme to steal almost $23 million from overworked and understaffed correctional officers that he employed.”

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According to the union, officers at the state-run prisons and jails were cheated out on pay at both the beginning and end of their shifts for years.

During Wednesday’s state Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis where the settlement was approved, Moran pointed out several correctional officers in the audience who had between $2,000 and $10,000 in wages “stolen” from them.

When officers clocked in early to get to their post on time, or when they were held at their post late until their replacements arrived, the electronic timekeeping system rounded the time to the scheduled shift — shaving off time, and money, from pay records, according to the union.

When correctional officers complained about being shorted on their paychecks, AFSCME got the U.S. Department of Labor involved. The feds first found officers at the Jessup Correctional Institution were shorted by $468,000 between 2018 and 2020, which led to an expansion of the investigation to all state-run correctional facilities.

“This is a department that Larry Hogan oversaw and his appointees managed,” Moran said. “After being caught by our union and the federal Department of Labor for engaging in wage theft, Larry Hogan’s administration refused to speak with us about this wage theft.”

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Patrick Moran of the AFSCME union representing correctional officers speaks at a Maryland Board of Public Works meeting at the State House in Annapolis on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Thousands of correctional officers were awarded millions in back pay.
Patrick Moran of the AFSCME union representing correctional officers speaks at a Maryland Board of Public Works meeting at the State House in Annapolis on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. Thousands of correctional officers were awarded millions in back pay. (Pamela Wood)

A spokesman for Hogan, who is now running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, did not address the wage theft investigation, but issued a statement critical of the union.

“We cleaned up corruption in the corrections system, expanded recruitment efforts, and raised officer pay to record levels — all without AFSCME’s help or partnership,” said Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci. “For them, it always was and is about politics, and while it’s understandable Maryland Democrats are in panic mode about Governor Hogan’s campaign, there’s really no need to weaponize government meetings like this.”

Carolyn Scruggs, the state’s secretary of public safety and correctional services, said the timekeeping system has been fixed “so that it no longer continues to round those numbers.”

Moran praised Gov. Wes Moore and his administration for working diligently to resolve the wage claims. Administration and union officials had been meeting weekly to sort out the issues.

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Moran said it’s frustrating that no officials have been held accountable for the pay theft.

“There is no one that’s been held accountable yet. It’s really a disservice to the taxpayers. It’s a disservice to the employees that no one has been held accountable for this wage theft,” he said. “Are they still working in state government? Are they working in county government? They have no place in government because they do not have the trust of the taxpayer and the people of Maryland.”

Moore apologized to correctional officers last summer when the first settlement payment of $13 million was made. On Wednesday, he said that the latest settlement is “conclusively bringing this matter to a close.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor, however, said the investigation is not closed and declined to comment further on the case.

After last summer’s payment, AFSCME believed that many workers had been missed, including correctional officers who work in prison workshops, transportation and kitchens. And some correctional officers hadn’t been paid the right amount of lost pay the first time. Further investigations led to thousands of workers being added to the settlement or having additional money paid to them.

AFSCME officials believe this to be the second-largest wage theft settlement benefiting correctional officers. In 2013, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation resulted in $35 million of back wages paid to nearly 4,500 correctional employees in Puerto Rico.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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