Sheriff under scrutiny for sick-leave donation

Anderson aid to deputy may have violated state personnel law

May 27, 2000|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Sheriff John W. Anderson tried to help a deputy -- one who had raised $3,000 for the sheriff's election campaigns -- by giving him some of his own sick time.

But as an elected official, Anderson has no allotted sick leave to give. He faces investigations for possible earlier violations of personnel and ethics laws, and his office is trying to address the latest matter by having the deputy pay back the time.

The sheriff's second-in-command, G. Wayne Cox, has sent a memorandum to the deputy offering two options: refund about $3,000 to the city or not take sick time until 2002.

Deputy Mario J. Teresi Sr. was off from July 19, 1999, to Sept. 8, 1999, with 28 days donated by Anderson and nine given by two other employees who work in the sheriff's office, the letter says.

"None were eligible to donate sick leave to you," Cox wrote May 16. "As of this date you now owe a total of 27 days Sick Leave to the City of Baltimore, which may either be paid in cash or deducted as it is accrued."

Anderson did not respond to a hand-delivered letter seeking comment. Cox, Frank Mann, the assistant attorney general who represents the agency, and Frank D. Boston III, the sheriff's personal lawyer, declined to comment.

Campaign finance records show that Teresi, a seven-year veteran, has been an active supporter of Anderson. Since August 1993, Teresi has raised about $3,125 for Anderson's campaigns.

Teresi, who serves at the pleasure of Anderson, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment about why he needed the sick leave and how he feels about Cox's memo.

But he expressed concern last week about his situation to Jesse E. Hoskins, Baltimore's director of personnel. Hoskins said he told Teresi to try to work out a deal with his supervisors to allow him to pay back the sick time he owes with newly accrued time over three or four years.

"He was concerned about having no balance of sick leave available to him," Hoskins said. "I would strongly recommend that it be done over a longer period of time so if employees become ill, they have sick leave they can use."

Anderson's office has come under scrutiny because of the apparent special treatment of his wife, Donna. In her first 18 months as a secretary in the office, Donna Anderson took five months of sick leave, with time donated by employees who serve at the pleasure of her husband -- an apparent violation of state personnel laws.

In addition, Donna Anderson said in sworn documents that she worked part time for more than a month, but payroll records show that she continued to receive her full salary of $24,797.

City Comptroller Joan W. Pratt has been auditing the office for several weeks. Officials in State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli's office have said they plan to review Pratt's audit to see if Anderson committed misconduct while in office. Montanarelli's office investigates elected officials.

The state personnel department is also looking into the office's hiring practices and handling of employee benefits.

Donna Anderson, who was hired in April 1998 shortly before their wedding, is not the only person close to the sheriff working at the office. Six of Anderson's or Cox's family members, friends, or children of friends are on the department payroll.

John Anderson earns $64,000 a year and has been elected three times since being appointed sheriff in 1989. His employees are based in the Circuit Court buildings on Calvert Street and are responsible for serving warrants, summonses and foreclosure notices. The sheriff's office also provides security for all five city courthouses. The sheriff is a state official, but his budget is largely controlled by the city. His office has both city and state employees.

Both Andersons maintain they have done nothing wrong.

However, the May 16 memo issued by Cox suggests that Anderson is concerned that the office may have run afoul of personnel laws and is now trying to rectify mistakes. Since an article appeared in The Sun earlier this month, the office has made changes in both sick leave and hiring practices.

Whether Donna Anderson also would have to repay some of the sick leave she took is not clear. Records at the sheriff's office say the former chief deputy, a state employee, gave her 39 sick days so she could undergo back surgery -- an apparent violation of state personnel law.

That deputy was a state employee and Donna Anderson works for the city. Personnel law does not allow for the swapping of state and city sick leave. The memo to Teresi states that in addition to the time donated by the sheriff, the nine days given by two state employees have been "disallowed" because Teresi works for the city.

How Teresi got the sick time from the sheriff also raises questions. David DeAngelis, Anderson's former chief deputy who retired last year because of tensions with the sheriff, said Anderson knows that he can't donate sick leave time.

"He knows he is an elected official. We've had this conversation," DeAngelis said.

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