Out-going Sheriff Dominick J. Mele, who says he's mulling the idea of waging a write-in campaign to retain his job, is refusing to meet with Sheriff-elect Robert E. Comes to discuss the transition when Comes takes on the post.
County Executive Habern W. Freeman said he arranged a meeting with Mele and Comes two days after the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, which saw Comes garner 11,555 votes to Mele's 7,526.
But Mele did not attend.
"I just mainly wanted to arrange the meeting to find out what their plans were," Freeman said. "I found Mele obviously stung by the fact that he lost the election, but he was most concerned about the department."
When Mele did not attend Freeman's meeting with Comes, Freeman said he had a separate meeting with Mele last Monday when they talked about programs, legislation and funding needs that had to be settled before the office changes hands.
Mele said he didn't go to the meeting with Comes because he believes he is not responsible for helping Comes arrange taking office.
"(Comes) has got a plan," Mele said. "When he comes in, he can implement it. . . . There's nothing for me to be involved in. Whatever he has to do, he can do it after he's formally sworn in."
Comes said he agreed to meet with Freeman and Mele even though he was not planning to approach Mele to talk about the transition until closer to Dec. 3, when he is set to take office.
Comes, who retired from the department as a major in January, explained that such a meeting with Mele is not a priority for him. "Being with the department for 27 years, I know a lot about it," he said.
Mele said his refusal to attend the first meeting is not related to his possible write-in campaign. No Republicans have entered the race, so Comes is unopposed in the general election unless Mele goes through with his campaign.
The idea of a write-in campaign came from several citizens who approached him on election night before any votes were tallied, Mele said.
Mele said reports that he was considering the campaign out of bitterness were untrue. He said he still believes he is the best person for the sheriff's job.
"I did not generate the idea for a write-in campaign," Mele said. "I did not go to anybody. People came to me."
Mele planned to talk about the write-in campaign with supporters over the weekend.
The sheriff, who declined to identify the people supporting his write-in candidacy, said supporters had expressed a concern about Comes' willingness to support creating a county police force if the next county executive wants to pursue that shift. Mele is opposed to formation of a county police department, which would have an appointed rather than elected chief.
Mele added that supporters think the primary's low voter turnout, combined with the fact that Republicans can't vote in the Democratic primary, were influences that resulted in his defeat.
Comes said he is confident that he would win the November election even if Mele organizes a write-in campaign.
Nevertheless, Comes is staying on the political front until the Nov. 6 election -- his campaign staff opened new headquarters at 24 Pennsylvania Ave. in Bel Air and a fund-raiser is set for Oct. 26.
Comes expressed concern that the proposed write-in campaign will further split the sheriff's department at a time when it should be healing its wounds from the primary.
"(A write-in campaign) will keep the department in turmoil like it has been," Comes said.
But Mele said he doesn't think his write-in campaign will hurt the department.
Still, Mele said he is wary of putting his family and supporters through a bitter campaign like the primary race.
Mele also acknowledged that his campaign coffers -- which once totaled $21,850 -- are nearly depleted. "I'm concerned about that," Mele said. "I don't have that kind of money."