An angry Anne Arundel County Council voted to subpoena Sheriff Robert Pepersack last night after he walked out of a hearing on his troubled budget.
"This is the first time I can remember a department head walking out of here on an appropriation bill," said Council Vice Chairman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, a Republican from Pasadena. "It's a direct insult to this legislative body."
Council Chairman David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Democrat, said this will be the first time the council has subpoenaed a county official in the 28-year history of charter government.
Mr. Pepersack, also a Republican, waited with a entourage of deputies for an hour to request a last-minute transfer of $184,700 to his office, which is running over budget for the second straight year. He left at 8:30, when Mr. Boschert postponed the hearing for 1 1/2 hours.
Mr. Pepersack never returned.
He said this morning that, because he had already addressed the budget issue at earlier public hearings, he did not know he had to be present.
Besides, "I was a little put out, yeah. Last night, I was publicly placed in the position of being a beggar asking for crumbs. I was told to go out and wait until they were ready to have a little piece of me."
The seven-member council voted unanimously to subpoena Mr. Pepersack to appear before the council May 4, 1:30 p.m., to answer questions about how he is managing his office. The county Office of Law was preparing the subpoena this morning, said Judy Holmes, the council's administrative officer. The subpoena is to be served by a private firm, not one of the sheriff's deputies.
Though Mr. Pepersack's agency received the largest increase of any county department last year, he insists he was not given enough money to run his office, which provides courtroom security, transports prisoners and serves legal papers.
Like all county sheriffs in Maryland, Mr. Pepersack is an elected official. He bristled when he heard that council members referred to him as a "department head" last night.
"They better get that straight," he said. "I'm not a department head. I'm the only elected law enforcement official in this county, and I was voted in by an electorate of 460,000, not their 65,000. So tell them to get their verbage straight."
The sheriff said he'll appear on May 4, if subpoenaed, but complained of being a victim of "political gamesmanship."
He said, "This is just a continuation of the second-class status I've been enjoying."