Sheriff's office expected to name new warden Selection to head Detention Center

November 14, 1993|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

Paul S. Hastmann, an agency official in the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, is expected to be named warden of the Harford County Detention Center, The Sun has learned.

Harford Sheriff Robert E. Comes plans to introduce Mr. Hastmann to the County Council at its Tuesday night meeting.

Mr. Hastmann has worked for about 25 years in the state `D system, Sheriff Comes said Friday.

He is the executive director of the Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards, one of 12 agencies in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Sheriff Comes stopped short, however, of saying he has hired Mr. Hastmann to assume control of the county jail's daily operation. "I can't say that because I don't have the final papers in hand," the sheriff said.

Sheriff Comes did say that Mr. Hastmann has excellent credentials and is well-respected throughout the state.

When contacted Thursday at his home in Sykesville, Mr. Hastmann said any information regarding the warden's position would have to come from Sheriff Comes. "I don't want to steal the sheriff's thunder," he said, "but I do plan to be at the County Council meeting."

Mr. Hastmann does not need the council's approval since the position of warden is created in the sheriff's office, said George Harrison, spokesman for the county administration.

James D. Vannoy, an assistant attorney and acting secretary for the council, said Friday that Tuesday night's agenda for the County Council meeting does list time for Sheriff Comes to address council members.

"I assume the sheriff will do that [announce Mr. Hastmann as warden] as a courtesy to the council," Mr. Vannoy said.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann has not yet received any paperwork regarding the new warden, Mr. Harrison said Friday.

The sheriff said he hoped the new warden will be "on the job by Dec. 1." The warden's salary is budgeted between $45,344 and $60,154 annually.

Mr. Hastmann would succeed John J. O'Neill Jr., the director of procurement for the county, who has been on loan to the sheriff's office since April, when he became acting warden at the Detention Center.

Mr. O'Neill was named acting warden after Deputy Maj. E. Dale Zepp announced his resignation as head of the Detention Center in the wake of allegations of mismanagement.

Those allegations arose mainly from Mrs. Rehrmann, who wants to take control of the Detention Center away from the sheriff's office.

The Detention Center has been the focus of investigations by the state attorney general's office and the Harford state's attorney since a Delaware man was found dead in a holding cell March 1, 1992.

The death was initially labeled a suicide but questions arose about the handling of evidence and the conclusion of an autopsy which suggested that the inmate, William M. Ford, 30, might have been killed.

Last April, the Rehrmann administration paid $400,000 to settle a threatened lawsuit by Mr. Ford's family, who alleged that Detention Center personnel were responsible for killing Mr. Ford.

A special Harford grand jury reportedly heard testimony earlier this month about the Ford death and is trying to determine whether Mr. Ford committed suicide or was killed in the holding cell.

If Mrs. Rehrmann succeeds through referendum and legislation in limiting the power of the sheriff's office to court security and process serving, the law enforcement division and county jail would come under her control.

The new warden will serve under Sheriff Comes.

Despite the controversy surrounding the Detention Center, the facility recently received a three-year reaccreditation from the American Correctional Association, a private consulting organization based in Laurel.

The Harford jail also received a favorable state review from the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in July, earning its fifth consecutive Recognition of Achievement Award. That distinction goes to facilities that meet 100 percent of the state's mandated standards.

Mr. Hastmann was unavailable Friday to say how many other state correctional facilities have received the achievement awards.

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