Arundel judge promises decision soon on disputed transfers by Carroll sheriff

April 12, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

ANNAPOLIS -- An Anne Arundel County Circuit judge said yesterday he will decide later this month whether to bar the Carroll County sheriff from transferring four deputies who say they were given new assignments because of their union activity.

After listening to six hours of testimony from Sheriff John H. Brown, three of the four deputies and other witnesses, Judge Eugene M. Lerner asked lawyers to submit written summations by Tuesday and said he would issue a decision April 23.

By agreement, Deputy 1st Class Edward Smith, Sgt. Thomas Bader Jr., Sgt. Kevin O'Leary and Cpl. Neil Wuethrich will remain in their original assignments until Judge Lerner renders a decision.

The case was shifted last week to the court in Annapolis after Carroll County's Circuit judges decided not to handle the dispute because they work closely with the sheriff's office and the deputies.

Much of yesterday's proceeding focused on the sheriff's motives for transferring four deputies who were active in forming a deputies union.

Deputy Smith said the sheriff knew he was acting as president of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office Employees Association, a fledgling union representing about 22 of 100 police and correctional officers.

Sheriff Brown said official notification of the union leaders' names came after he had decided to transfer Deputy Smith, Sergeant O'Leary and Corporal Wuethrich to jobs in the detention center to fill three vacancies. Sergeant Bader was to be transferred to replace Sergeant O'Leary on road patrol.

"I had to restructure my office to comply with the county's $5 million shortfall," the sheriff said. "I told the County Commissioners, 'I will cut my office to bare bones rather than cause them to raise taxes.' "

Sheriff Brown said he would not comment on the case until after Judge Lerner's ruling.

Deputy Smith, who spent 22 years in the Baltimore Police Department before joining the Carroll County sheriff's office in 1991, said that if the transfers are allowed to stand, he might resign.

"I pick my own job," he said. "Nobody will pick it for me."

Corporal Wuethrich, a 14-year veteran in Carroll County, said six deputies with the rank of corporal have less seniority than him and three are trained in correctional work.

"I am trained as a police officer, not as a correctional officer, and the sheriff wants me to put my life in jeopardy, and he wants me to supervise correctional officers who know much more about the job than I do," Corporal Wuethrich said.

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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