Despite Council's Tough Talk, Sheriff Gets All He Asks For

Pepersackgranted Last-minute Budget Transfer Once Again

April 08, 1992|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

The County Council has talked tough about Sheriff Robert Pepersack'sbudget problems in recent weeks, but last night's showdown wasn't much of a fight.

The council gave Pepersack -- who is running over budget for the second straight year -- everything he wanted, voting unanimously in favor of a last-minute transfer of $184,700 to see the sheriff's office through the fiscal year ending June 30.

The sheriff originally asked for $204,700, with the additional $20,000 to be used for improvements to the Circuit Court lockup. The council amended the transfer bill, ruling that money for the renovations should come out of the Office of Central Services, which covers allcounty buildings.

That suited the sheriff just fine. "This was anattempt on our part to force them to do that anyway," said Undersheriff Patrick Ogle.

A hearing and final vote on the amended bill is scheduled for April 20.

Though council members are expected to pass the measure, they took the opportunity last night to chastise Pepersack for not living within his budget, especially at a time when county revenue has dwindled and other departments have not only been toldto absorb unusual cuts, but also warned against asking for last-minute transfers.

The council bailed the sheriff out with a $90,000 transfer last year.

"We are darned tired of not seeing people live by the rules. That's got to stop," said Council Chairman David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Democrat.

"We can't have people running aroundspending over their budgets. It's the last time this is going to happen in any county agency."

The sheriff maintains he has done nothing wrong. He told the council he isn't to blame for his financial problems because he didn't get enough money last year from County Executive Robert R. Neall. The sheriff's department was given new responsibilities, but no money to cover them, he said.

"My challenge since assuming my position has been to provide adequate constituent services -- without adequate funding. One cannot overspend what was never there," Pepersack said.

Some council members criticized Pepersack for not letting them know about his money problems last November, when Neall reopened the budget process. But Pepersack said, "We were supposed to ask for more food in a time of famine? We just felt there wasn't no way anyone was going to listen to us."

Had the council votedagainst the transfer, the county probably would have had to cover most of the shortfall anyway. Without the transfer, the sheriff would not have been able to provide Circuit Court security. The judges almost certainly would have ordered the county to come up with enough money to keep courts open.

Boschert said he has asked county judges for an explanation of exactly what services they depend on the sheriff to provide.

"We haven't given in at all," Boschert said. "The County Council is looking into the sheriff's department very carefully."

In other action, the council:

* Introduced a bill to provide $1.58 million for portable classrooms.

* Introduced a bill releasingplanning money for construction of an addition to Broadneck High School.

* Passed legislation creating a special taxing district for South River Heights. The measure allows the community to tax property owners for certain services.

* Introduced a bill allowing carnivals, bazaars and lawn fetes on Sundays.

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