Harford Co. sheriff sends resume to city

Speculation is increasing of possible resignation

April 03, 2003|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Harford County Sheriff Joseph P. Meadows, the center of a criminal misconduct investigation by the state prosecutor, may be resigning in the coming weeks and has submitted a resume to the Baltimore city solicitor's office.

As the probe of the recently re-elected sheriff stretches into its third month, some county officials say the staff is concerned about the impact on the department. But the matter is not impeding daily work, they said.

Meadows was named this year in a complaint by a longtime female employee of the Sheriff's Office. State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli was poised to present his investigation to a county grand jury Tuesday, but that proceeding was postponed.

Meadows' lawyer, H. Edward Andrews III, said he was still involved in discussions with Montanarelli. "There is something we're working on that ... has to do with the ultimate decision of whether [the sheriff] will stay or go," Andrews said yesterday, but he declined to elaborate. "I have a sense that in the next 30 days, the decision will be made."

Meadows, 42, returned to work after a brief leave in February. He was in the office yesterday and planned to be in today, said his spokeswoman, Ginger Rigney.

Andrews said that the resume might have been given to the city solicitor's staff "in anticipation that he'll be moving on, but to my knowledge, he isn't looking for employment."

City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. said Meadows was "absolutely not" being considered for a position in the office.

"I've never met him," Zollicoffer said. "I've never interviewed him. Unfortunately, all I know about him is what I read in the headlines."

Zollicoffer said that while he has not met Meadows, "he has a friend in this office, Ernest Crofoot," who passed the resume along. Crofoot was Harford County attorney during the Eileen M. Rehrmann administration.

Crofoot did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Zollicoffer said his office specializes in civil law, while Meadows' background as sheriff and former assistant state's attorney is criminal law.

Asked if he could be reconsidering Meadows as a candidate later, Zollicoffer said, "I don't anticipate there will be any changes."

Montanarelli said he could not discuss where negotiations with Andrews or Meadows stood, but "we always look at all options."

He recalled a past, unrelated case when "a public official resigned his position, and we saw no point in going forward with the investigation."

He added that the key point of such a decision is whether "we believe resignation is in the best interest of everyone -- particularly the public."

Montanarelli said he did not know when a decision in the matter might be reached. "I can't discuss that," he said. "In the interest of everyone, the sooner the better, and that's what we're aiming for."

Details of the complaint have not been made public.

The Meadows investigation was made public in February, after it was turned over to Howard County by Col. Thomas Golding, chief deputy, who took over day-to-day operations for several weeks. After the state prosecutor's office took over the case, Meadows returned to work.

John O'Neill, the county's administration director, said the mood in the Sheriff's Office has been tested by the investigation.

"Everybody is concerned," O'Neill said. "But to say everyone is hanging their heads in shame is an overstatement."

Robert G. Cassilly, the County Council's liaison to the Sheriff's Office, said the investigation was not interrupting daily work or county security.

"From my discussions with the sheriff's department, I am confident that they are not allowing this to interfere with the carrying on of the mission," Cassilly said. "They have a very professional department over there with a lot of experience."

Meadows, a former prosecutor with the county state's attorney's office, was elected sheriff in 1994. He earns $84,011.20 in the post.

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