ANNAPOLIS – For the state’s Department of Natural Resources, Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting was an occasion to recognize success and acknowledge wrongdoing.
Ron Young, the department’s deputy secretary, first proposed that a Caroline County tree nursery be named in honor of the man who helped build it. Then, a few minutes later, Young submitted a request that the state pay a $210,000 settlement stemming from a civil rights complaint.
The mood in the Governor’s Reception Room was bright when the board took time out to recognize John S. Ayton, a 31-year DNR employee. A new tree nursery in Preston will be named in Ayton’s honor.
After accepting congratulations from Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, Ayton talked about his lifetime of service to Maryland’s woodlands. “To me, it’s all about doing things for people,” Ayton said. “It’s been a rewarding career.”
Soon after, however, the board turned its attention to the department on a motion Young described as “much less pleasant.”
The DNR asked the board to approve a $210,000 award to settle a 1994 civil rights complaint brought by five African- American employees, charging that department managers harrassed the employees and denied them promotions.
The settlement was reached after what Young called “extensive negotiations” with a federal mediator.
Young said that steps are being taken to make sure that discrimination in hiring and harassment the officers suffered would not occur again. “The department is not going to tolerate the conditions that happened before,” Young said.
Glendening said he was disappointed in paying out awards for the “inappropriate conduct of some employees” and would seek to make the employees more financially accountable for their actions. -30-