For now, Livesay keeping his job

Police chief/candidate to guide reaccreditation

March 01, 2006|By LARRY CARSON | LARRY CARSON,SUN REPORTER

Over fruit cup and eggs at an Ellicott City diner yesterday, Howard County Executive James N. Robey and Police Chief Wayne Livesay decided that Livesay will remain in office for at least several more months while he runs for County Council.

Robey said Livesay would leave his job as chief to campaign, but not until the Police Department completes a reaccreditation evaluation.

"I asked him to stay at least until accreditation is over," Robey said.

Livesay, who accompanied the executive on a visit to a Columbia business yesterday, said the process should be complete in April.

Robey said he saw no reason for Livesay to retire now, noting that judges and sheriffs run for political office while serving.

"Why is he different?" Robey said.

Livesay changed his party registration from Democrat to Republican when he filed Feb. 22 to run for the council in District 5. The move was called "political opportunism" by his primary rival, Greg Fox.

Livesay, 54, a 34-year police veteran and Howard's chief since 1998, has not formally launched his campaign.

"I wanted to file so everyone knew I was definitely going to run. I was trying to hold off until I resolved the retirement issues," he said this week. .

County law does not require his resignation. Robey retired as police chief in January 1998 to run for county executive, which is when Livesay became chief.

By running for office, Livesay will forfeit more than $200,000 in pension benefits, he said, under the county's Deferred Retirement Option Program. To qualify, Livesay would have needed to extend his career until April 2007, including unused leave.

He is still eligible for an 80 percent pension, however, based on his top three years of earnings. He makes $147,929 annually, but would earn $49,000 as a member of the County Council.

Neither of the council members running for county executive felt Livesay should resign.

"I just don't see any conflict of interest," said County Council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican.

Councilman Ken Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat, said he "has confidence in their [Robey and Livesay's] judgment."

Livesay declined to discuss campaign issues for now, but he brushed off criticism of his party loyalty from Fox and his backers.

"They're entitled to say whatever they want to say," he said.

Battle lines are being drawn for the Sept. 12 primary between Livesay and Fox, 38, of Fulton, who announced his candidacy last summer, though Republicans claim Livesay's entry into the race will not lead to a bitter fight.

"It's an open seat, and we have candidates who are going to run for it. I would not be surprised to see other people get into the race," said Brian Harlin, chairman of the county Republican Party.

County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a western county Republican, has jumped firmly on Livesay's bandwagon, while state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, who held the council seat for six years, is just as firmly behind Fox.

"I want someone to represent us who knows that section of the county," Feaga said. "[Livesay] went to school at Glenelg High with some of the farm kids out there. He knows [the area] so well, and he's very active in his church -- a religious person.

"You have to realize that before politics you have to look at issues and the person," Feaga added.

Livesay was a lifelong Republican until 2002, when he switched parties, he said, to back Robey, a Democrat, for re-election. Livesay also said he favors more gun control because of the "carnage" he has seen during his police career -- a position contrary to GOP doctrine.

Fox and Kittleman dismissed Livesay's chances.

"I doubt there will be a big split in the party. The most you'd have is a splinter," Fox said, questioning Livesay's loyalty to the GOP.

Fox said Livesay's entry "has energized grass-roots Republicans," to work for him. Fox said Livesay's advocacy of speed cameras, publicity about department pressure on patrol officers to make more drunken-driving arrests and traffic stops, and Livesay's two party reversals will hurt him with the party faithful. Livesay canceled the traffic-stop policy last month, saying he was not aware officers felt it amounted to a quota.

Said Kittleman: "I don't think Wayne Livesay has much support in the party. The rank and file do not support Livesay. He's got a lot to answer for."

Donald Dunn, the only Democrat in the race, said he is waiting to see what develops.

"It will liven up what would otherwise have been a fairly dull primary," he said.

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