Pay raise urged for deputies But detention staff plan is put on hold

May 02, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Harford County's 143 deputies can expect substantial raises under a new pay plan that would make their salaries comparable to those of law enforcement officers in other counties -- provided it receives the blessing of the County Council.

However, Harford Detention Center workers, including about 62 correctional officers, will have to be content with a 3 percent cost-of-living increase and merit steps for at least another year.

The disparity is causing friction between the two groups of employees, both of whom work for the Sheriff's Office but belong to separate unions. It is also causing friction between Sheriff Robert E. Comes, who insists the correctional workers followed the county's guidelines and submitted pertinent salary information on time, and the county administration, which says they did not.

The county required the unions to submit data on pay scales in other jurisdictions to enable it to develop the plan.

Larry Klimovitz, director of administration for the county, said the deputies are scheduled to get the new pay plan because they submitted the information the county needed and met all deadlines.

"We met with the detention center employees and we tried to explain that there were holes in their reports, that there was a lack of information. There was nothing major, but they needed to have all their T's crossed and all their I's dotted," Mr. Klimovitz said at a meeting Tuesday with the County Council on the sheriff's budget.

Sheriff Comes retorted, "The correctional workers submitted everything they were asked for."

Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott, a District B Republican, chastised Sheriff Comes for not taking a more active role in the negotiations. "Maybe you need a personnel director who is smart enough on these matters to see them through," she said.

Money for the new pay plan for the deputies is included in the $15.9 million County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann pledged to the sheriff's department for fiscal 1994, which begins July 1. That compares to $14.3 million this year.

The seven-member council must decide on a county budget by May 31; it can subtract funds from any department but can add money only for the board of education.

Councilman Robert S. Wagner, a District E Republican, said both new play pans should go into effect at the same time.

"I feel this is unfair, they both work for the sheriff's department. I'm not real sure I can vote for one to get the increase and not the other," he said.

Such talk is unsettling to deputies. Cpl. Michael R. Barlow, who has worked for the sheriff's department 18 years and who provided the county with much of the data it needed to evaluate deputies' pay, said it's not fair to punish the deputies who put in "thousands of hours of their own time" to supply the county with the figures that it needed.

Cpl. Larry Deobridge, a member of the pay plan committee at the detention center, said that his committee began compiling data on pay for other correctional workers around the state in 1991 and submitted it to Mrs. Rehrmann last year.

The operation of the detention center is under investigation because of controversy over the death of an inmate in his cell last year and allegations of sexual activity at the jail. But the pay plan dispute is an entirely separate issue.

The plan for the deputies includes increases depending on rank, the number of years at that rank and the number of years the deputy has worked for the sheriff's department, said Corporal Barlow.

The starting salary for deputies, now $20,114, would be $23,186 under the plan, a 15.3 percent increase.

Corporal Barlow said that the 15.3 percent is deceptive because all county employees are in line for a 3 percent cost-of-living increase and merit increases. Under the plan, the deputies will not get the 3 percent or the merit increases.

The new rate is still less than the average starting salary of $25,063 of deputies working in Calvert, St. Mary's, Anne Arundel, Charles, Howard and Baltimore counties and for the Maryland State Police, Corporal Barlow said.

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