After practically hauling Sheriff Robert Pepersack before them in irons, the County Council scolded him for 1 1/2 hours yesterday for spending money on stationery, postage and three sets of hubcaps.
"You tell me what this has to do with what we need," the sheriff said afterward, outside the council chambers.
Pepersack, who is running over budget for the second straight year, is requesting a last-minute transfer of $184,700 to see his department through June 30, the end of the fiscal year. Two weeks ago, after he walked out of a hearing on the transfer bill, a furious council subpoenaed him to appear yesterday to answer questions about his spending habits.
Led by Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, an Arnold Republican, the council quizzed Pepersack, also a Republican, on several expenditures involving relatively small sums -- $75.72 for stationery, $220 for letters to community leaders and hundreds of dollars worth of hubcaps.
"They're not large dollar amounts, but there is a pattern of spending that I am very disturbed about," Evans said.
More than the actual cost of the stationery, council members were angry that Pepersack had authorized the county print shop to print letterhead for a private, non-profit sheriff's foundation he created about eight months ago. The council objected, even though Pepersack said he reimbursed the county for the cost of printing.
The foundation, which so far has raised about $2,500 in donations, was created to provide "a legal, alternative method of funding" as a supplement to the sheriff's regular budget, Pepersack said. So far, the foundation has paid for deputies' shoulder patches, travel to training sessions and a fax machine.
The council also chided Pepersack for spending $220 to send letters to 450 community leaders. "Do you think that was a wise expenditure given the plight you're in?" Evans asked.
As for the hubcaps, two of the three sets were returned, Pepersack said. The third set -- a donation from Bob Bell Ford -- now adorns his cruiser, he said.
The council questioned why representatives of the local deputies' union were paid to attend council hearings on the transfer bill, and why deputies are being sent to courtroom security training sessions in Glynco, Ga. If the sheriff's office is as short-staffed as Pepersack claims, why weren't those deputies assigned to Circuit Court security? council members asked.
County budget officials said an increase in Circuit Court sessions caused the sheriff to overrun his overtime budget by $140,000.
Council members postponed a vote on the transfer bill, saying they want more time to consider the situation. The sheriff's office will run out of money on May 15.