O'Malley administration responds on Cheltenham
The head of Juvenile Services is seeking to assure a leading Republican lawmaker that his agency has responded appropriately to the February death of a teacher on the grounds of one of its facilities.
"Members of the public, State employees, and members of the legislature should have confidence that the State is fully committed to ensuring that all of our facilities are as safe as they can possibly be for our staff and youth -- and that the State is taking every action possible to keep our facilities safe and secure," Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore wrote Wednesday.
DeVore's letter comes after a letter Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell wrote Tuesday to Gov. Martin O'Malley. O'Donnell, the House of Delegates minority leader, demanded an update in the Hannah Wheeling case. Coworkers found the teacher's beaten body outside a locked building at Cheltenham Youth Facility, and a 13-year-old suspect was quickly identified and moved elsewhere.
But five months later, no charges have been filed. O'Donnell said he believes the governor, a Democrat seeking reelection this fall, is responsible for providing the public with an explanation of what's going on and has raised the possibility of political motivations for "the ongoing silence."
Many of O'Donnell's questions cannot be answered because of the active criminal investigation.
However, DeVore's letter focused on the steps DJS has taken to make its staff feel safe after Wheeling's killing. O'Donnell asked, "What has been done to give confidence to state employees, members of the legislature, and the general public that such a tragic murder of a state employee in the Department of Juvenile Services will not recur?"
DeVore wrote about his agency's direct responses to Wheeling's death: notifying the community, providing grief counselors, cooperating with investigators and disciplining four employees (including firing two). And he wrote about broader changes that have taken place, such as enhancing "oversight of state-run facilities by increasing the number of unannounced inspections of its facilities."
DeVore wrote that O'Malley asked him to respond to O'Donnell. And DeVore directed O'Donnell to the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office for updates on the status of the criminal cases. Sources close to the investigation have said charges are "imminent."