Sheriff seeks big pay raise

January 27, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Saying that sheriffs have been treated as "second-class citizens" for too long, Anne Arundel Sheriff Robert Pepersack is asking county lawmakers to raise his office's salary from $42,000 to $65,000.

But members of the county's delegation were quick to say that the sheriff has no chance of receiving anywhere near the amount he is requesting.

"I'm upset about it," said state Del. W. Ray Huff, a Democrat from Pasadena. "There are many people more capable than him who are working for a lot less."

Even Del. Victor A. Sulin, a Severn Democrat who agreed to sponsor a bill requesting the raise, said he does not support giving the sheriff so much.

"I think the sheriff does deserve a pay raise, but I can't justify as much as he is asking," Mr. Sulin said.

Sheriff Pepersack emphasized that he was not making the request for himself, because the increase would not take effect during his present term. But the sheriff did say he plans to run for re-election.

"We've got to pay a professional salary to attract professional people," Sheriff Pepersack said.

"We've never had a lack of qualified people running," responded Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, an Annapolis Democrat.

In requesting the $65,000, Sheriff Pepersack said he was aiming for a salary between that of the clerk of the court, whose salary is $56,096, and the state's attorney, who earns $89,000.

The sheriff deserves a larger salary than the clerk, he argued, because "she doesn't have anyone armed and dangerous running around."

A number of sheriffs are expected to request pay raises this year, because such requests are allowed only in the last year of their terms. The sheriff of Wicomico County, for example, is asking that his salary be raised from $41,000 to $58,000.

Sheriff Pepersack said sheriffs throughout the state are underpaid.

His brother, who is sheriff in Baltimore County, receives $55,000. The Howard County sheriff earns $38,000. The Prince George's County sheriff earns $78,000.

Sheriff Pepersack said he is not afraid that asking for such a large salary increase will hamper his re-election effort. "Sometimes you have to have the courage and fortitude to stand up for what is right," he said. "If the people don't want it, they'll let me know."

But the sheriff will first hear from the lawmakers. No one in the delegation seemed very sympathetic to the sheriff's request, and several pointed out that Sheriff Pepersack knew what the job paid when he ran for office.

"The taxpayers would really balk at this," said Del. Joan Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat.

A few legislators were shocked at the sheriff's nerve, although Del. John C. Astle, an Annapolis Democrat, said he was not surprised. "He has never been a shrinking violet," Mr. Astle said.

But the lawmakers did not rule out some sort of pay increase. The last time the salary for the job was raised was in 1990, when the pay increased to $42,000 from $38,000.

A few legislators suggested that Sheriff Pepersack could anticipate a 2 percent to 3 percent pay increase, similar to one being proposed for state employees.

Mr. Huff, however, said there's a chance that Sheriff Pepersack could end up with nothing because of his unrealistic request. "It's only going to get people mad," he said.

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