Misconduct allegations against sheriff surface

Baltimore County official accused of cheating on exam, stalking woman

August 31, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

For as long as Anne K. Strasdauskas has been in the Baltimore County Sheriff's Department, controversy has followed her like a shadow.

Some who know her say the sheriff is a dedicated public servant who sometimes lets her zeal for her work intrude on her judgment. Her critics say she has misused her office, improperly mixing her personal life with her job.

With a Sept. 10 primary challenge nearing, previously unreported transgressions by Strasdauskas have been alleged. And for the first time, the specific reasons for her firing as a deputy sheriff in 1997 have been made available to The Sun by former workers and adversaries who have come forward. Among the documents is a Maryland State Police investigative report showing that detectives sought criminal charges against Strasdauskas.

The sheriff denies any wrongdoing. "Someone has singled me out," she said in an interview last week.

Several charges -- noted by a departmental review board when she was fired by the board and former Sheriff Norman A. Pepersack in 1997 -- are being made public for the first time.

Strasdauskas was reinstated after challenging the firing in court, a twist in a long and strained relationship with Pepersack, who hired her in 1991.

Strasdauskas, a Democrat, beat Pepersack in the 1998 election. Now he is running as a Republican against her. Two other Republicans and two Democrats also are challenging her.

The list of Strasdauskas' alleged transgressions as a deputy sheriff, outlined in documents, includes:

Stalking and harassing a Reisterstown woman for six months, calling her up to 10 times a day, and following her to her job and to the homes of friends. The woman agreed to drop a formal complaint to investigators with the Sheriff's Department, after Strasdauskas agreed to leave her alone.

Misuse of the FBI's National Crime Information Center computer system, in part to locate the woman she was accused of stalking. Maryland State Police met with a Baltimore County prosecutor about the case, but the prosecutor declined to bring charges against Strasdauskas.

Cheating on her final written exam to become a sheriff's deputy, the culmination of six months of intensive training. This was noted in the report recommending her firing.

Parking in a handicapped parking space using a permit that belonged to her one of her parents and a charge of insubordination stemming from failure to return a departmental radio as ordered. These also were cited in the report recommending her firing.

Strasdauskas denies stalking the woman and misusing the NCIC system. She says she "didn't keep her eyes straight during the exam" -- adding that she has limited vision in one eye -- but did not cheat.

"But why don't you print the good things I've done?" Strasdauskas said. "I saved the life of a black man with CPR. ... I care about my deputies, children and seniors. ... I am the sheriff, 365 days a year, 24/7."

She also takes credit for achievements as sheriff. Among those, she says, were using X-ray scanners at the courthouse, improving technology in her office and implementing a warrant-flagging system.

23 charges listed

A copy of the sheriff's department's official log of internal affairs cases on the day the panel voted to fire Strasdauskas -- December 8, 1997 -- lists 23 accusations against her dating from 1990, including the stalking and NCIC allegations.

Not all of the charges were heard by the panel. Strasdauskas appealed her firing, won re-instatement, then resigned and won the election.

Because Strasdauskas resigned, the investigative files did not become public and could not be used as evidence in an appeal of her reinstatement that was planned by Pepersack. He lost the election and the appeal never occurred.

Ethics investigation

These previously unreported allegations come to light as Strasdauskas faces a county auditor's inquiry into her campaign advertising and spending of public funds.

Strasdauskas, 48, also faces a separate investigation by the Maryland Ethics Commission into a possible conflict of interest. She appeared, in uniform, as a witness at a county liquor board hearing in January to endorse a corporation's license application for a Silver Spring Mining Co. restaurant in Cockeysville. But she did not inform the board that her brother owns the company's restaurant by the same name in Bel Air.

Perhaps the most serious of the charges against her occurred in November 1996, when then-Deputy Strasdauskas allegedly made illegal inquiries using the FBI's nationwide criminal-justice information center, according to documents. The NCIC contains 24 million records and is the nation's largest criminal-justice databank.

Law enforcement personnel are routinely and regularly told from the beginning of NCIC training that they must not abuse the system, which provides a person's criminal record, as well as information such as addresses, telephone numbers and license tag numbers.

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