Foe scolds sheriff on spending

October 26, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The Democratic challenger for Anne Arundel County sheriff charged yesterday that the Republican incumbent, Robert G. Pepersack Sr., is on the verge of overspending his budget for the fourth time in as many years.

George Johnson, a county police sergeant, said county budget figures show that Mr. Pepersack could have a $300,000 shortfall if he continues his current spending pattern.

The sheriff denied the charge through a spokesman, John T. J. Merrill Jr.

Mr. Merrill said the sheriff "disagrees with the numbers" and intends to be within his budget's spending levels by the end of the fiscal year.

He said the figures have skewed because large numbers of employees have taken annual leave, which means more part-timers have to be paid to fill in for full-time employees entitled to the leave.

"The figures that came in were notoriously high," he said.

The sheriff has feuded repeatedly with the county executive and County Council over his budget, alienating several county officials.

He has overspent his budget three consecutive years -- by $80,000 in 1991, $125,000 in 1992 and $83,510 last May -- money the sheriff says he needed to effectively run his office.

"It's just a continued pattern of budgetary problems, and I see it as his inability to be able to deal with monetary issues," said Mr. Johnson.

The sheriff's office has a $2 million budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. In the first 3 1/2 months, he has spent $680,171, according to Teresa Sutherland, an assistant to the county auditor.

That means a $300,000 shortfall by the end of the fiscal year if that rate continues, Mr. Johnson said.

Using figures supplied by the county auditor, Mr. Johnson added that the sheriff has spent $150,000 on part-time deputies so far, well over the $97,180 budgeted for part-timers.

Mr. Pepersack, who implemented the part-time deputy program to cut back on overtime costs, has hired up to 60 part-timers to help provide courthouse security.

"I like the part-timer program," Mr. Johnson said. "But I don't think that many's needed."

Mr. Johnson, whose slogan is "For the People, Not for the Money," has aimed much of his campaign efforts at Sheriff Pepersack's budget battles with the county executive and County Council and at his request for a 50 percent pay raise. The job pays $42,0000.

But Mr. Johnson and the county auditor aren't the only ones sounding alarms about the sheriff's spending habits.

In an Aug. 16 memo, John R. Hammond, county budget officer, notified the sheriff that he had overspent his budget in the current fiscal year for such items as temporary clerical services and purchases of uniforms.

The total budgeted for temporary clerical services was $24,970, and the sheriff had spent $79,828, according to the memo.

A total of $12,800 was budgeted for uniform purchases, and $17,883 had been spent, the memo said.

"Both indicate overspending in specific areas and in amounts I believe will be at the very least difficult to compensate for elsewhere in your budget," Mr. Hammond wrote.

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