Council Cool Toward Bill That Would Bail Out Sheriff

March 18, 1992|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

County Council members say they are unwilling to bail out Anne Arundel's debt-ridden sheriff, whose agency could shut down unless he gets$200,000 to see him through the rest of the fiscal year.

County Executive Robert R. Neall submitted a bill to the council Monday that would grant a last-minute transfer of $204,700 to Sheriff Robert Pepersack's office from a contingency fund. This is the second straight year Pepersack has overspent.

Last year, after considerable argument, the council transferred $90,000 to cover the overspending.

"We anticipate there will be no support" this year, said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary. "I don't know the date on the calendar, but he will run out of money and have to shut down."

Undersheriff Patrick Ogle said the county has no choice but to cover the department's expenses through the fiscal year that ends June 30.

"Our attorney advises us the county must fund the sheriff's office and reimburse us for our expenses," he said. "That's the law. How the county makes up for the shortfall is up to the county."

If the council refuses to make up the shortfall, the sheriff -- an elected leader whose office is mandated in the state constitution -- can sue the county, and the courts would decide the outcome, Hayman said.

An exasperated Neall asked for state legislationlast week limiting the sheriff's duties and requiring him to performthose duties without exceeding his budget. State lawmakers withdrew the bill today after meeting with Pepersack and Neall's aides.

Overtime accounts for most of the sheriff's deficit -- $105,660.

He'salso asking for an additional $41,950 for contractual services; $27,760 for supplies and materials; $8,330 for business and travel; and $21,000 for new computer equipment.

Ogle said the county did not fund the department adequately.

"This isn't a problem we created, it's a problem the county created. We're being made the scapegoats," hesaid.

All three council members who supported Pepersack when he asked for more money last year -- Republicans Diane Evans of Arnold and Carl G. "Dutch" Holland of Pasadena, and Linthicum Democrat George Bachman -- said they will not help him this year.

The three led the council in putting an end to last-minute transfers for other agencies and said they cannot back down by making an exception for the sheriff.

"We all warned him," Evans said.

Staff writer John A. Morris contributed to this article.

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