Memo to Barnes: Election's Over

January 17, 1995

Dear Jerry Barnes:

Call off the dogs. The election is over. You are now Carroll County's state's attorney. Thomas E. Hickman is history. Carping about your predecessor's managerial incompetence is not the fast track to increasing your political stature. Running the prosecutor's office in a competent fashion is a much better strategy.

Your continuing complaints about Mr. Hickman's overspending certain budget categories, late payments of bills and other allegations of administrative sabotage are unbecoming of the county's top law enforcement officer and of your administrative officer. Underpaying a cellular telephone bill by 14 cents, as Mr. Hickman's office did, is obviously an innocent mistake and should be treated as such. These petty disputes sap attention from more substantive issues you and your colleagues have raised about the operation.

By calling for an audit, you are reinstilling the concept of accountability in an office that too often answered only to itself. When the audit is complete, release the results and promise to correct sloppy management practices and avoid making the same mistakes yourself.

Make sure your internal payroll records are the same as those sent to the county personnel office. Allowing top members of the staff to account for overtime differently from the rest of the staff, as Mr. Hickman did, is an invitation for abuse. Our judicial system is based on equal treatment under the law; that standard needs to be applied to the operation of the prosecutor's office.

Arrange next year's budget to satisfy the $20,000 "loan" the county extended to Mr. Hickman to buy furniture for the Child Abuse and Sexual Assault office on his charge card, of all things. Don't resort to outside fund-raisers, shaking down supposed sex offenders or any of the other questionable methods Mr. Hickman proposed to pay off the "loan." By juggling your budget accounts, you should be able to find the money to pay back the county for necessary furniture purchased for official use.

Take the high road. Your proposed changes in the Narcotics Task Force indicate you recognize problems and are willing to make changes and set high standards. Tell your subordinates to end their petty vendetta with your political nemesis and focus on the future.

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