Sheriff's bill on employees backed

February 18, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- Carroll lawmakers voted unanimously yesterday to introduce a bill to protect the county Sheriff's Department employees from being fired without just cause.

Sheriff John H. Brown said the measure is an effort to standardize the policy for all employees. Deputies now have more protection than correctional officers and civilian employees, he said in a phone interview yesterday.

But former Sheriff Grover N. "Sam" Sensabaugh said in a telephone interview that the employees already are protected and that the bill is a ploy to keep Sheriff Brown's top workers in office if he loses the election later this year.

In the 1990 election, Mr. Brown, a Republican, narrowly defeated Mr. Sensabaugh, a Democrat who had held the office for two terms.

Mr. Brown said politics did not motivate him to ask for the bill.

"Absolutely not. I was going to do this last year, but it slipped by, and I didn't get around to it," he said.

Mr. Brown faces competition this year from Maryland State Police 1st Lt. Kenneth Tregoning, a Democrat who has announced he will run for sheriff.

Carroll County Republican Del. Richard C. Matthews, who is chairman of the Carroll delegation, said he did not think Mr. Brown's bill was politically motivated.

"He's only protecting the Indians, not the chiefs," Mr. Matthews said.

The lawmakers voted to introduce the bill at a brief afternoon meeting at the House Office Building.

The proposal says that during the first 18 months of employment at the Sheriff's Department, employees may be dismissed without reason. After that, they may be fired or disciplined only for just cause.

Current law says the probationary status applies only to deputies.

"I'm trying to unify everything here," Mr. Brown said. "I want to afford these people the proper protection."

The department has 83 employees, he said.

Mr. Sensabaugh said the state Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights already protects the officers.

Civilian employees, such as secretaries, do not deserve more protection, he said, and they already have a grievance procedure in place.

"Why should a civilian secretary for the sheriff have any more protection than a secretary for the [county] commissioners?" Mr. Sensabaugh said.

The bill would protect the sheriff's few top-ranking officers, Mr. Sensabaugh said. "They're trying to have lifetime jobs."

Capt. Steven Turvin, one of Mr. Brown's top officers, said in a telephone interview yesterday that he was not sure where the idea for the bill came from.

"All it does is make things right. I don't see that that's too much to ask," he said.

Captain Turvin, a department employee since 1981, said he has worked for three sheriffs.

Mr. Matthews said Carroll Commissioners Julia W. Gouge and Elmer C. Lippy support the measure. Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he did not support it, but would not oppose it.

When the Carroll delegation introduces the bill, the House leadership will assign it to a committee for a hearing.

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