Spotlight on the Sheriff (Again) ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

January 12, 1993

Remember all the fun in Anne Arundel government last year when Sheriff Robert G. Pepersack started feuding with County Executive Robert Neall? Remember when the County Council subpoenaed Mr. Pepersack? Remember Mr. Neall telling the sheriff he was on his "egg-sucking list," and the sheriff sued Mr. Neall to get his undersheriff back?

Well, the fun is about to begin again.

Anne Arundel's General Assembly delegation has only two major local bills on its agenda.

One would increase marriage license fees from $25 to $45, a sensible way to raise more money for domestic violence programs.

The other, requested by Mr. Neall, would make the sheriff financially accountable to the county.

Sheriff Pepersack, who has asked for three bills of his own, is not the only one who will hate it. Although the bill would affect only Anne Arundel, sheriffs across the state and their supporters will be out to block it for fear it would set a precedent.

They are right. It would. And high time.

Granted, not all sheriffs have experienced the personality clash Mr. Pepersack has had with Mr. Neall. But legally, the sheriffs' relationship with the counties and the state is prone to disagreement. Sheriffs get their funding from the county. But because they are elected state officers, they contend that county executives have no control over their budgets -- even though the executive is responsible for all county spending.

Virtually all of Mr. Pepersack's problems stem from the fiscal accountability issue. He justified overspending his budget by claiming Mr. Neall didn't give him enough money to do his job correctly. Mr. Neall countered that other department heads had to live within their budgets; so should the sheriff. Mr. Pepersack said he isn't a department head and isn't answerable to Mr. Neall, only to the electorate, etc., etc.

Ideally, the state should take over funding of sheriffs, because they are state officers. But the state's financial situation ensures that will not happen. As long as local jurisdictions have to pay for the sheriff's office, it is only fair that they have some control over its budget. Anne Arundel needs this bill, and legislators from elsewhere in Maryland should see it as a ripe idea for the rest of the state as well.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.