Council Refuses To Cover Overspending By Sheriff's Office

May 08, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

A furious Sheriff Robert Pepersack said yesterday that the sheriff's office and the Circuit Court will "come to a grinding halt" by June 10.

The County Council twice denied the sheriff's last-minute request for $90,000 to balance his 1991 budget in separate votes yesterday and Monday night.

The council reversed its earlier vote yesterday, approving emergency money for the Board of Election Supervisors, the Department of Parks and Recreation and Central Services, but still refused Pepersack's request.

FOR THE RECORD - The identity of Sheriff Robert Pepersack's campaign manager was incorrectly reported in a story on a controversy over the sheriff's budget published in yesterday's Anne Arundel County Sun.
Pepersack's campaign manager in the 1990 election was Becky Patterson of Glen Burnie.

Council Auditor Joseph Novotny said yesterday that the Office of the Budget did not include the sheriff's department when it informed him of emergency requests for money.

Council members George Bachman, D-Linthicum, Carl Holland, R-Pasadena, and Diane Evans, R-Severna Park, were in the minority Monday night when they opposed an amended emergency bill that excluded the sheriff's department. But the measure failed because emergency bills require five of seven votes.

The sheriff was working frantically yesterday with County Executive Robert R. Neall and other officials to getthe money.

"As of June 10, the Anne Arundel sheriff's office willnot have any money," Pepersack said. If no new money were approved by then, the office's 28 deputies would have to be laid off, he said, and no prisoners could be transferred from the detention center, no court papers could be served and Circuit Court trials would cease because there would be no courtroom security.

"The business of the sheriff's office will stop. There are 28 families that will not have a paycheck," the sheriff said.

Novotny said, "I don't think that's the council's intention. I think the intention is to work it out."

Pepersack's request will be considered again in a separate bill, possibly as soon as Monday.

The council remained sharply divided over whether to grant the extra money, commonly called a fourth-quarter transfer.

The four council members who voted against Pepersack's request said they could not support a fourth-quarter transfer for the sheriff when for months they have been chiding the school board for not living within its budget and then coming in with 11th-hour requests for extra money.

"I have some difficulty (approving the sheriff's transfer) when at the same time we've been telling children in the school system they have to do without," said Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, D-Severn.

Middlebrooks and David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, and Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River, voted against the sheriff's request.

Evans -- a Republican Party leader and fiscal conservative who led the attack on the school board's policy of asking for fourth-quarter appropriations -- accused her colleagues of singling out Pepersack, a Republican, for political reasons.

"This is being used as a political football," she said Monday night. "I question the motives of some of my colleagues."

"It's not (political)," said Clagett, the council chairwoman. "I think that's political," she said, referring to Evans' support for Pepersack.

Ina memo to the council dated Monday, assistant county auditor RaymondA. Dearchs questioned the sheriff's request on several grounds:

*Half of the $90,000 is needed to cover $45,000 in unbudgeted overtime pay. The sheriff's office exhausted its budgeted overtime in November, but the auditor's office was not informed until now, Dearchs said.

* The sheriff asked for $25,000 toward the salary of Undersheriff Patrick Ogle. Ogle, a Republican who worked as Pepersack's campaignmanager in last November's election, was brought in on a contractualbasis at $37,000 a year -- even though there was a vacant merit system senior deputy position for $29,963.

* Pepersack's request for $6,000 in the business and travel account includes $1,000 to send Ogleand another deputy to Georgia for training, even though Neall has imposed a ban on out-of-state travel.

Other over-expenditures, such as the $6,000 used to install a Law Enforcement Television Network, should have been deferred for review in the 1992 budget process, the assistant auditor said.

Pepersack said that he has been working with Neall and the budget office for months on his office's financial problems but that no one ever told him he had to consult the council orthe auditor.

"We were advised that (fourth-quarter transfers) were a routine thing," he said. Pepersack said he overspent only after budget officials assured him that the council would grant extra money at the end of the year.

The $90,000 was to have come from the county administrators' $1 million contingency fund for unexpected needs.

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