Broll is best pick for NRP's top job

OUTDOORS

January 04, 2004|By CANDUS THOMSON

Twice the Ehrlich administration has passed over the best candidate to command Natural Resources Police. With the position open again, the brain trust has another chance to get it right.

The best cop for the job this side of Mark Trail is Lt. Col. Tammy Broll.

Broll was named acting superintendent after the resignation last month of Scott Sewell, who was selected in April after the administration's original pick, Douglas DeLeaver, went back to his old job as chief of the Maryland Transit Administration police force.

Sounds like a soap opera.

And that's the problem with how the administration has been handling the state's oldest law enforcement agency (and one of the oldest in the nation), which is charged with protecting critters and boaters.

The agency is underfunded and understaffed. It needs a steady hand at the top - like Broll's - not one selected because it pulled the correct switch in the polling booth last November.

Sewell, a 20-year state trooper who spent five years as U.S. marshal for Maryland, seemed a good fit. He stepped in after DeLeaver decided four months into his tenure that NRP wasn't his cup of tea.

Certainly Sewell's desire for the job was refreshing, and it was better than the administration's bungled attempt to make him deputy fisheries director, a position he wasn't qualified for.

But while his law enforcement background might suggest a good match, he was - pardon the pun - a fish out of water.

Sewell's ham-handed handling of October's crossbow mishap that killed a 10-year-old hunter and his refusal to accept advice from staff veterans made the department look inept.

When a woman filed a harassment complaint against Sewell (the complaint was dropped when the woman failed to appear in court), his position became tenuous. He resigned the day of the court hearing "to pursue other career opportunities," and he and his attorney have declined to comment further.

Department of Natural Resources Secretary Ron Franks says he is looking for a permanent replacement. Given the situation, he shouldn't look far.

The force is down about 30 officers, and the 13 cadets of the Class of 2002 were the last influx of new blood. The 2004 state budget authorizes 285 employees (207 of them officers) and a budget of $27.1 million.

Given Maryland's vast coastline and abundant outdoors opportunities, those are skimpy resources to ensure boaters are sober and have the right safety gear, to arrest trespassers and poachers who steal our crabs, fish and deer, and to carry out search-and-rescue missions.

There are whispers that the new top cop will be part of a reorganization and consolidation of law enforcement functions within the department. That's even more of a reason to give the agency a strong foundation.

Broll, an Easton resident and 25-year veteran of NRP, is a pro.

As commander of field operations before her temporary promotion, she gave crisp, informative presentations to legislators. She has the trust of citizen advisory groups, such as the Sport Fish Advisory Commission, and professionals whose activities are monitored by her officers. The Maryland Watermen's Association gave Broll a certificate of appreciation last fall for her "dedication and sense of fairness in working with all user groups who enjoy the bay."

As Larry Simns, president of the association told me: "Whether it's a waterman who has a problem with an officer or the other way around, she's quick to respond. She doesn't shove something under the rug and she doesn't let something drop until there's an answer. She treats everyone the same."

Let's hope the Ehrlich administration takes advantage of this do-over and that the third time is the charm for NRP.

Boating mishap

So riddle me this, Batman: Why did the state pay $27,000 to an upstate New York company to handle the auction of the governor's yacht on eBay, when it could have done it for $40?

As several of you have pointed out in e-mails and fishing chat rooms, the Internet site is an inexpensive place to sell a powerboat, sailboat, personal watercraft or ATV. Lots of you have success stories.

"What's good for Maryland citizens ought to be good enough for our government," e-mailed Henry Warren, an Eastern Shore angler who is retiring to Florida and got his asking price on eBay for the family's 23-foot Grady White. "I thought the state was supposed to be saving money."

The online auction service charges a $40 fee to advertise a boat, no matter what its size. For a couple of extra bucks, you can include a picture package with the listing. A seller can set the parameters so that an additional $40 transaction fee is charged only after the minimum bid is reached.

Instead, the state gave The Advantage Group, a warehousing and liquidation company, 10 percent of the $275,100 purchase price, which was far below the appraised value of $295,000 to $375,000. What kind of advantage is that?

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