City wants plan on future of narcotics task force

July 26, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Westminster City Council members told Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman last night that they need more information about how the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force will operate in the future before agreeing to continue to participate.

Mr. Hickman said disagreements among the groups involved in the task force -- county commissioners, city officials and the state's attorney's office -- and a county audit of the force's books have been "a great distraction."

"I hope you will do what you can to straighten things out," he said at the council meeting.

But Council President Kenneth A. Yowan said the city needs to see a copy of the audit and a written proposal about the task force's future.

"We keep hearing things, but we have yet to see anything," Mr. Yowan said.

The county has been auditing task force operations for more than a year and is not finished, Mr. Hickman said. Task force members have questioned why it is needed.

As the result of the turmoil caused by the audit, Westminster Police Chief Sam R. Leppo said he would no longer handle task force money, evidence and seized property. In turn, county officials said the city should not receive half of the proceeds from goods seized by the task force during drug investigations.

The city, which has one police officer working with the drug group, has received half of the proceeds for about four years.

County, city and state police officials involved in the task force have been meeting to reach a new agreement, which includes nine changes, Mr. Hickman said. The only change they cannot agree on is how to split the proceeds from sales of seized goods, he said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who has been involved in the negotiations, wants all money to go to a county fund. The task force then could submit vouchers to the fund for expenses.

One proposal is for the city officials to keep 25 percent of the proceeds to cover any insurance and litigation expenses the city might incur.

A compromise might be to have the county pay the city's legal expenses, Mr. Hickman said.

Mr. Dell did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment last night.

City Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein asked Mr. Hickman to research how other joint county/city drug task forces handle money.

Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr. said the issue is "dragging out."

"We need to bring it to a head and go on," he said.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown said city officials must determine whether a new agreement would be in the city's best interest.

Mr. Hickman said he would submit a written proposal of the changes to the mayor and council.

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