Prosecutor's probe finds misconduct by ex-sheriff

March 09, 1995|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Sun Staff Writer

Former county Sheriff Robert G. Pepersack violated state regulations when he ordered deputies to check on the criminal backgrounds of his tenants and used questionable judgment in several other matters, a state prosecutor's report says.

The 11-page report, signed by State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli and obtained by The Sun, concludes that although Mr. Pepersack committed misconduct in office, his actions do not warrant criminal charges.

"In addition to violating state regulations, his order to his subordinates placed them in the position of either violating state law or incurring his displeasure," the report states. "The fact that a chief law enforcement officer used his office for his personal benefit can have the effect of undermining the credibility and integrity of his agency."

The report was the result of an investigation that began last spring when three unidentified people told Mr. Montanarelli's office that the sheriff had abused his access to the Criminal Justice Information System, a computer network that details criminal histories.

Sheriff Pepersack, a member of County Executive John G. Gary's transition team, has told county officials that he is interested in becoming Anne Arundel's police chief. He did not return phone calls yesterday.

According to the prosecutor's report, Mr. Pepersack admitted to investigators that he ordered deputies to use the criminal justice computer network to check on his tenants "to see if they were wanted" and that he "could not afford the potential embarrassment of having a tenant with a criminal record, or one whose criminal conduct would lead to a police raid of the rental premises."

Mr. Pepersack also admitted sending on-duty deputies to Baltimore County to collect $2,200 in back rent owed to his daughter, according to the report. He explained to investigators that although his daughter had gotten a summons in Baltimore County District Court, deputies there never served it. Mr. Pepersack said he got a copy of the summons and sent Lt. Dennis Czorapinski and Deputy Richard Smith to Dundalk to serve it. Both men complained to Capt. Stephen W. LaPanche about the order, the report said.

"This incident represents a questionable use of personnel and possible abuse of authority," the prosecutor's report said. "However, there is no evidence that this was other than a one-time occurrence. As such, we will not recommend prosecution."

The prosecutor also determined that Mr. Pepersack's banking practices were not a criminal matter. According to the report, Mr. Pepersack opened a checking account shortly after taking office in December 1990. He told the state prosecutor's office that he was not given written policies and procedures for running the department, that there was no financial accountability and that he found money and uncashed checks in desk drawers.

The money was used to purchase political fund-raising tickets and to fund other events sponsored by the sheriff's office.

During a county audit in March 1992, which Mr. Pepersack requested, county officials discovered the checking account and found that budget rules were being circumvented, the report said. The auditors recommended that the account be closed.

The state prosecutor found no criminal wrongdoing in other allegations against Mr. Pepersack.

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