Corrections employees from around the Southwest region of Oklahoma are rallying behind employees of the Howard Mcleod Correctional Center who find themselves hard pressed around nine personnel actions taken in the last few weeks.
Crowds of 58, 60 and 80 employees from the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center, Mack Alford CC, Probation and Parole as well as HMCC are ready for some answers to their questions.
Four employees have been terminated and five employees were suspended from the Howard McLeod Correctional Center in the last few weeks, with the latest victim being the Chief of Security Mike Moore.
Moore was suspended after he brought additional information forward regarding witness that the DOC’s Internal Affairs investigators failed to pursue. Moore is highly regarded by staff at HMCC for his integrity and the latest information OPEA has received is that the agency is considering a demotion.
“The employees are in fear of their jobs,” said Sergeant Steve Walker. “We need some help and protection from these false allegations made by inmates against staff. We’re afraid to correct an inmate’s behaviors for fear Internal Affairs will twist the truth.”
Dozens of employees echoed Walkers sentiments. “We fear retaliation for supporting our co-workers,” said one. Another said: “The employees are just after a fair, impartial and complete investigation. We shouldn’t have to fear for our jobs for standing up for ourselves.”
OPEA representatives along with Senator Jerry Ellis have met with the employees during these meetings to discuss options for resolving the situation. “The employees are very concerned the investigation and subsequent disciplinary actions were a rush to judgment against staff members,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “The staff at HMCC believes the investigation was botched and is incomplete. Looking into a fair, impartial and complete investigation seems very reasonable to me.”
Staffs were informed during the last meeting that DOC Director Justin Jones had agreed to meet with their representatives along with OPEA and Senator Ellis to try sort through the situation. The group elected five employees to represent all the staff during the meeting.
“It is an opportunity for the employees and director to sit down and try to resolve the issues that are causing the problems at HMCC,” said Zearley. “It is OPEA’s first step in moving forward in finding a resolution that everyone can live with and that will restore a sense of trust at this facility.”
OPEA members attending the meeting petitioned the OPEA Board of Directors to provide legal assistance to the employees who are facing disciplinary action. “The Board will take a look at this at their October board meeting,” said Zearley. “But OPEA has these employees covered as OPEA’s grievance manager, Clyde McClendon will be assisting these employees with filing there appeals.”
Employees are in the process of setting up a legal defense fund for the employees affected by the personnel actions. “It is important for us to take care of our own,” said retired unit manager C.T. Hurd. “These guys are going to struggle for a while.”
OPEA will forward the information about donating to the defense fund as soon as it becomes available. If you would like to donate now, please send your checks to the OPEA state office, 13 NE 28th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, ATTN: HMCC Legal Defense Fund.