Harford deputies endorse Democrat

Maryland

Maryland Votes 2006

September 29, 2006|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,SUN REPORTER

The Harford County Deputy Sheriff's Union members voted overwhelmingly last night to endorse Democratic sheriff nominee L. Jesse Bane, while his Republican challenger called for the resignation of the union's president.

Bane, 58, a 34-year veteran of the agency who retired in April as a major, is the first Democrat to be endorsed by the deputies union since 1990, when the GOP failed to field a candidate.

He won by a margin of 167-6, with nine deputies marking ballots as abstaining.

"It means a lot," Bane said of the endorsement. "It's a statement that they have faith and confidence in my ability to lead them, and will get behind me and dedicate their energy to fight crime in Harford County."

Republican nominee Norman R. Cochran, a former state trooper, was invited but did not attend a union meeting last week to solicit an endorsement.

He won a narrow victory in his primary, garnering less than a quarter of the votes in a six-candidate field, with the outcome determined last night by the counting of absentee ballots.

Hours before the union announced the results, Cochran issued a news release asking its president, Fred Visnaw, to relinquish his post. Visnaw is scheduled to appear before an internal police hearing board next month on misconduct charges stemming from a July incident in which he was caught sleeping in his patrol car.

"It is doubtful that the public can have confidence in its law enforcement agency when the charges of this nature are pending against DFC Visnaw," said Cochran, 60, whose candidacy is supported by the current sheriff who did not run to keep the job this year. "This conduct is not acceptable nor should it be tolerated. It is not fair to the hard-working and dedicated deputies of the Harford County Sheriff's Office."

The incident occurred a few days after Visnaw made critical comments in The Sun about the agency's morale problems, and many deputies said they believe he was targeted.

The same week, a captain sought an injunction against Sheriff R. Thomas Golding seeking to block a demotion in rank that he said was done for political purposes and harassment.

Yesterday, Visnaw's attorney questioned the timing of Cochran's statement seeking Visnaw's resignation, and noted that the sleeping-on-duty case has not been reviewed by the trial board.

"I think [the request] is irresponsible," said Michael Marshall, a Baltimore attorney who represents the union. "An individual is innocent until proven guilty."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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