- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Virginia corrections officer who left her gun and ammunition in a bathroom and then six months later fell asleep while on the job with a group of prisoners remained a state employee for more than a year after the second offense, according to a Department of Corrections inspector general report.

In March 2010, Officer Elizabeth J. Rosenbaum left her gun belt - which included a .38-caliber revolver, ammunition, cellphone, cuffs, and pepper spray - on a table in the restroom at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) headquarters building.

Officer Rosenbaum received a counseling memo for the incident but should have received a written notice for violating safety rules, the report said.

In September 2010, the officer was working with a different highway crew and a few VDOT employees saw her sleeping in a chair. Screened-inmate work crews help maintain the state’s rural highways through a contract with VDOT.

Offenders walked around her and at lunchtime one of them came within a few feet of her, according to the report. The crew reportedly yelled at her to wake up before they left.

June Jennings, the Department of Corrections’ inspector general, concluded that if Officer Rosenbaum received the written notice she should have after the incident with the gun, she likely would have been fired after being caught sleeping on the job. But her employment with the state did not end until Dec. 15, 2011. Ms. Jennings sent the report, which was obtained by The Washington Times through a Freedom of Information Act request, to State Internal Auditor Jack Spooner the week earlier, on Dec. 7.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint from staff and consisted of interviews about the charges.

The department did not comment on why the officer was not dismissed earlier, as it does not discuss personnel matters or investigations, according to DOC spokesman Larry Traylor.

The infractions are not the only incidents to happen recently within the department. An internal report sent in February to Ms. Jennings said that Correctional Maj. Everett Cox directed that a drunk officer be placed on duty in a supervisory master control role.

Department staff was to determine the reprimand for Maj. Cox in the incident. Impairment in the workplace from alcohol or other drugs, and their use, except drugs used for medical purposes, is prohibited, and people who are intoxicated should not be put on a job. Depending on the nature of the violation, punishment can range from a written notice to termination.

Further, Ms. Jennings issued a report last year saying that former Regional Program Manager James Burgess gave then-corrections Lt. Lara Smith a state handgun and shotgun without Lt. Smith’s having completed the necessary training. Mr. Burgess also gave Lt. Smith his password to the Virginia Crime Information Network, which allows police officers to share information around the state.

Calls into a state employee hotline claimed Lt. Smith had been hired largely because she and Mr. Burgess were dating, but an investigation found that charge inconclusive.

Investigators did confirm that Mr. Burgess was overheard saying to Lt. Smith at one point that he was “just looking for an excuse to look at your boobs.”

Mr. Burgess’ employment with the state ended May 3, 2011, and Lt. Smith’s the following day.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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