EASTON — Gregory Dukes, a former legislative aide for Senator Richard F. Colburn, said Wednesday he did tasks for the senator that went beyond the scope of his job description.
Dukes said he wrote several term papers on Colburn’s behalf while the senator attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES). He also did personal tasks, he said, such as moving furniture and aiding contractors renovating the senator’s Cambridge home.
“I wasn’t with him very long when I realized this wasn’t right,” said Dukes, in a phone interview Wednesday.
Dukes took the job as full-time legislative aide in March 2004. He worked at the Annapolis office for several weeks before moving to the Cambridge office.
In summer 2004, he said, he complained to the Department of Human Resources about work he was assigned to do. Staff offered to help him find a different job, he said, but told him they had no influence over the state senator’s actions.
Dukes said he confronted Colburn about the extra work.
The aide said he had “no doubt” his job would have been jeopardized had he refused to do the tasks. “When you couldn’t offer him the services he wanted, he would let you go,” he said of the senator.
According to Dukes, some of those extra tasks included writing academic papers for two sociology courses Colburn took at UMES. The senator has since withdrawn from the school.
In a letter dated Jan. 27, 2005 sent by Dukes to the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the college, Dukes wrote, “Senator Colburn gave me a copy of the syllabus and all of the required reading materials…with specific instructions and dates for the completion of the papers I was to write. I was to write three abstracts and a term paper.”
Colburn has called Dukes a “disgruntled employee” and denied all allegations that the aide completed any schoolwork for him. Staff in Annapolis has said Colburn would not comment about the matter because it involved personnel.
“If I was disgruntled about anything, it was the fact that human resources let me down,” said Dukes.
Dukes said he charged Colburn a fee for the academic work he did, hoping that would dissuade the senator from using his aide to do the work.
By Maryland law, a person may not sell the writing of an academic paper if the buyer submits it as his or her own work.
Dukes said he did not know about the law but does not think it would have changed his actions. “I believe I was under duress. If I hadn’t done anything, I would have been fired,” he said.
In December, Dukes, a registered nurse, interviewed and accepted a job at Anne Arundel Medical Center. He said he told Colburn he was willing to stay on staff if the senator used him only as a legislative assistant.
Colburn asked for the aide’s resignation two weeks later, said Dukes.
The day before, Dukes said he was told the computer in the Cambridge office needed to be serviced in Annapolis. Before it could be sent, Dukes had to remove all personal files, containing schoolwork and campaign activities.
He said he copied the files to a compact disc as a “standard operating procedure.”
The senator asked for Dukes’ resignation the next day. Dukes said he didn’t know what to do with the computer files until after consulting an attorney. He sent copies to Robert Zarnoch, an assistant attorney general, and Colburn.
Colburn has said the aide improperly copied and removed files from the state-issued computer; Dukes said he was just doing his job.