The nerve of that sheriff

February 09, 1994

Call it chutzpah, nerve, audacity or gall, but don't call the request by Anne Arundel County Sheriff Robert Pepersack for a whopping big raise surprising. This is, after all, the man who sued the county executive when he cut the undersheriff out of the budget. Now, Mr. Pepersack wants state lawmakers to boost the sheriff's salary from $42,000 to $65,000. He notes correctly that the increase would not take effect until after he finishes his four-year term. He also acknowledges he intends to run for a second term (which he stands a good chance of winning).

The sheriff complains that what he gets now are "poverty wages" compared to other officials. The trouble is that the officials to which he compares himself -- the county executive ($85,000) and the state's attorney ($89,000) -- have vastly greater responsibilities. Maybe the sheriff, who handles courthouse security, serves papers and transports prisoners, should be more on a par with the clerk of the court ($56,000), but his workload may not be as great as that officer's, either.

The odds that the sheriff will get this ridiculous raise are about as good as Tonya Harding's chances of getting her own candy bar. State lawmakers, who like people to grovel when they want something, are hugely annoyed at his effrontery. Some are so irked that they have a mind not to give him any raise. That would be petty and vindictive.

The sheriff at least deserves a cost of living increase. Before Sheriff Pepersack was elected, the office was an unprofessional mess. For all his run-ins with the executive and County Council, he has done a good job of straightening things out. And no one can question his devotion to the job. We have no doubt he would take on 10 times more duties if the county would let him.

Maybe that's the problem. He is asking to be paid for his vision of the sheriff's office, not the sheriff's office as it exists.

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