Sheriff, former deputy square off

Tregoning, Paulsen differ over department's role

Carroll County

October 29, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The race for Carroll County sheriff pits an incumbent who says he's introduced innovation to the office against a former deputy who says change has exacted too high a price.

Democratic challenger Charles C. "Chuck" Paulsen Jr. also said Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning runs an office troubled by low morale.

Tregoning, who has expanded his office's road patrols and brought in federal revenue through the county jail, defends the changes and denies that his employees are unhappy.

"Morale is very good," he said, except for "former employees and some current employees you'll never please. You find that in any organization."

Paulsen, 43, of Westminster works in the county Office of Risk Management as a safety and training coordinator. During his 12 years in the sheriff's office, he held supervisory positions in courthouse security and in the office's warrant unit, rising to the rank of second lieutenant.

He resigned in April last year, when, he said, his duties were reduced and he was put on an evening shift. He says he is among several experienced deputies who have left the office.

"I probably left before I was pushed out," said Paulsen, whose law enforcement career started in 1982 as a Sykesville police officer. "I don't want to sound like a bitter former employee because I really have some legitimate concerns about the office. ... I've seen what he's [Tregoning] done with the office and what his `progress' has cost the agency."

Paulsen said Tregoning's decision to take on duties beyond the office's traditional responsibilities -- running the county jail, serving warrants and providing courthouse security -- has cost taxpayers.

In his campaign ads, Paulsen said overtime spending at the office is "out of control."

Steven D. Powell, county director of management and budget, said Paulsen is wrong in saying overtime costs have run over, and Tregoning is correct that the office's overtime spending has been under its budget.

Paulsen said his review of figures from the sheriff's annual report led him to say he could save $250,000 a year by reorganizing. But Tregoning and his staff say Paulsen apparently misinterpreted figures in the annual report.

The incumbent

Tregoning, 58, of Union Bridge retired in 1998 after a 31-year career with Maryland State Police. He was a lieutenant and commander of the Frederick barracks and was head of the Westminster barracks from 1989 to 1992.

In his four years as sheriff, he has expanded his office's road patrol to a 24-hour operation. He also joined the reconstituted county drug-enforcement task force, improved mutual-aid agreements and deputized town police officers and began a central booking unit at the jail that saves hours of manpower. The office has obtained grants of about $1.3 million during his first term for projects and equipment.

Tregoning also lists among his accomplishments the housing of prisoners for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which he said has grossed $2.6 million since 2000, with at least 90 percent of that money going to the county.

Michael F. Canning Sr., executive director of the Maryland Sheriffs' Association Inc., which includes all of the state's 24 elected sheriffs, said Tregoning "brings a good perspective to the group on law enforcement matters."

"He's a good, solid law enforcement official. His personality is very businesslike," Canning said. "His interest in the sheriffs' association is to make the system better for everybody and to better serve the constituents."

But members of the Carroll branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have raised questions about Tregoning's leadership. In July, NAACP members met with the county commissioners to ask them to look into allegations of racial mistreatment of inmates and staff at the detention center, despite the sheriff's pledge to "maintain a work environment free of adversity."

NAACP members told the commissioners that in the past three years the group has received complaints about: the use of racial slurs; the reassignment and demotion of employees who complained; and the failure to hire a probationary employee who complained of racially discriminatory treatment.

The commissioners have taken no action, but the questions dogged Tregoning at a NAACP candidates forum last month.

Paulsen lists the complaints of racial discrimination among the reasons to vote for him.

"We're in a different time and day and this county has grown," Paulsen said. "Carroll is a county that won't tolerate intolerance."

Tregoning denies the allegations -- and says his opponent is twisting the facts.

"It is a clear sign that this type of campaign is indicative of someone who is desperate, that they have to resort to misleading and negative information to the public to advance or promote their own agenda," said Tregoning, who ran unsuccessfully for sheriff as a Democrat before switching parties and winning four years ago as a Republican.

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