Sheriff fires warden at county jail

Tregoning mentions differences over home detention, booking

Didn't have `total support'

Ex-Sheriff Brown appointed Waters to head center in '94

June 16, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Carroll Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning fired county jail warden Mason Waters yesterday, citing differences over such issues as stopping contraband and implementing home detention.

Waters, who was hired as the warden of the Carroll County Detention Center in Westminster in 1994 by former Sheriff John Brown, was given the option of resigning or being terminated, Tregoning said. "He accepted termination."

"I do not feel I had the total support and cooperation of the warden to achieve what I think is good for the citizens and taxpayers of Carroll County," Tregoning said yesterday during an afternoon news conference at his office.

The sheriff said he has identified a "highly qualified and experienced" replacement for the position and expects to hire that person, whom he would not name, as soon as possible.

The warden and chief deputy are appointed rather than contractual, meaning they serve by decision of the elected sheriff, said Tregoning, who was voted into office last fall and took command Dec. 8.

After informing his senior correctional staff of the termination, Waters left and was not available to comment, a jail official said.

Waters could not be reached to comment last night.

The termination is effective June 30, but Waters has decided to take some accumulated time off, Tregoning said.

The sheriff described the parting as "professional" and "congenial." He emphasized the termination was not for "poor performance."

Tregoning said he had had discussions with Waters before the election. He said he told Waters he could keep the $57,387 post, but his work would be re-evaluated after six months.

"It has been six months and eight days since I took command," Tregoning said.

"I have had the opportunity to observe Mason Waters as warden. He has done a fine job. He is gracious and highly intelligent. But as sheriff, there are certain goals and initiatives I want to accomplish. It's critical I have an individual in the warden's post who shares my philosophy and what I want to achieve for the public."

One of Tregoning's prime concerns with the operation of the detention center has been work release.

The sheriff has successfully asked Carroll judges to recommend -- not order -- work release, allowing the jail staff to determine who is eligible.

By cutting down on the number of inmates granted work release, Tregoning hoped to reduce the amount of contraband being smuggled into the jail by prisoners in the work-release program.

Two female inmates had their work-release status revoked Monday evening after attempting to smuggle cigarettes into the jail. While not a criminal offense, cigarettes sell for $100 a pack inside the detention center and having them can lead to other problems, such as fights, a jail official said.

Tregoning gave no specifics but implied that he wanted a warden who would pay more attention to details.

"Sometimes the job requires more hands-on management," Tregoning said without elaborating.

The sheriff has set a goal of opening central booking at the detention center by Jan. 1.

Tregoning implied he and the warden disagreed over how central booking would be implemented and where it would be done within the detention center.

Central booking is a one-stop process where all persons arrested by state or local police would be brought to the county jail for fingerprinting and processing. A district court commissioner would have an office there, review the charges and determine bail.

If not released on bond or personal recognizance, the prisoner would be taken to a cell block to await court proceedings.

The sheriff also said he disagreed with Waters' views on home detention, which for certain nonviolent prisoners is considered cost-effective and alleviates crowding.

Under the former sheriff, Waters had tested electronic monitoring equipment used to track inmates allowed to serve their sentences at home and had found them deficient.

"The warden wanted a system he could control and manage," Tregoning said. "I don't care if [home detention monitoring] is privatized, as long as it is effective and there is timely notification if a violation occurs."

The new warden's first priority will be supervising the phased opening of a 100-bed addition to the detention center.

Tregoning said work-release inmates would likely be the first to move into the new wing, enabling construction crews to begin renovating the area they now occupy.

"I hope [the entire moving process] will be accomplished by Aug. 1," he said.

Pub Date: 6/16/99

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