Job is gone, but sheriff's aide is not AH Until dispute is resolved, Pepersack says undersheriff will keep working

July 01, 1992|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff Writer

Undersheriff J. Patrick Ogle will report to work this morning -- even though his salary has been written out of the new county budget that takes effect today.

"The fact is, I haven't fired the undersheriff," Sheriff Robert Pepersack said yesterday. "He's coming to work tomorrow."

"He can show up," said county Budget Officer Steve Welkos. "But he won't get paid."

Ogle's $47,740 salary -- perhaps the most contentious item in the sheriff's hotly disputed budget -- was eliminated by County Executive Robert R. Neall and the County Council in May as a cost-saving measure.

The council will consider a bill tonight that would abolish the undersheriff's job, a merit position, altogether.

But Pepersack says that, come hell or high water, he's not giving up his second in command.

"The man is necessary for the proper functioning of this office. Whether it's [Ogle] or somebody else, that position is going to stay."

At Pepersack's request, the Maryland Attorney General's office is reviewing his claim that Neall has no right to eliminate specific positions in the Sheriff's Department.

Though Neall controls the sheriff's funding, the sheriff is an independently elected state officer who should have control over his own staffing, Pepersack says.

Assistant Attorney General Stuart Nathan, who handles sheriffs' legal affairs, said last week he expected to answer Pepersack's inquiry by today, the start of the fiscal year.

Nathan, who could not be reached yesterday, has not yet rendered an opinion.

While he waits for the attorney general's advice, Pepersack says, it will be business as usual for Ogle.

"I have money in my budget. I'm the high sheriff. I guess I will just have to call him the low sheriff," Pepersack said.

But county officials said the only way Pepersack can pay Ogle is by getting approval from the budget office to spend money earmarked for other uses -- an unlikely possibility, said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary.

"I suppose there would be some technical way to do it if there was interest in doing it. But there is no interest in doing it," she said.

Donald Tynes Sr., the county's personnel director, said his office notified Ogle at the end of April that his job was being terminated July 1. Personnel officials tried to set up a meeting with Ogle to discuss placement in another county job, but Ogle never responded, Tynes said.

Of 22 county workers whose jobs were abolished in the new 1993 budget, Ogle is the only one who has not been placed in another position, Tynes said.

Though there are other vacant merit posts in the Sheriff's Office, Pepersack could not slide Ogle into one of those and have him continue the duties he now performs, Tynes said. Like any other displaced employee, Ogle would have to apply to the personnel office to be put on a list of other jobs for which he is qualified, he said.

Ogle, a former county police officer and candidate for County Council, could not be reached for comment.

The flap over Ogle's position is the latest in a series of disputes between Pepersack, Neall and the council dating back to the spring of 1991, when Pepersack needed a last-minute infusion of money to balance his books. He was hotly criticized this year when he ran in the red once again, even though the county admitted it failed to give him enough money to provide Circuit Court security.

In May, Pepersack made headlines when a furious, insulted council subpoenaed him after he left a hearing on his budget. At a subsequent hearing on his fiscal 1993 budget, he made the unprecedented move of submitting his own budget to the council, saying the one Neall prepared for him wasn't sufficient.

Recently, after Pepersack wrote a letter to the The Sun's Anne Arundel County bureau defending his positions, Neall sent the newspaper clipping back to the sheriff with a note saying he was now on the executive's "egg-sucking list."

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