Cecil County Sheriff’s Salary Boost Proposed; County’s Top Cop Pay 3rd-Lowest in State [UPDATED]
Cecil County Sheriff Barry Janney has proposed a gradual increase in the salary of the Sheriff to raise the pay scale from one of the lowest in the state to a close-to-par wage for other Sheriff’s on the Upper Shore. Cecil County has a larger population, higher crime rate, and more jail oversight duties than many other counties where the Sheriff is paid a lot more.
Janney, who had said previously he did not plan to run for re-election in the 2014 election, [UPDATE: confirmed on Tuesday that he "will be retiring as Sheriff" when his current term ends next year.] Janney submitted a request to County Executive Tari Moore several months ago, asking for her support to enact a change in state legislation to boost the sheriff’s salary in 2015—after whoever is elected in 2014 is sworn into office.
The proposal is slated for discussion Tuesday afternoon, when Moore and the County Council meet to review proposals for state legislative action in the next session of the General Assembly in 2014. (Although Cecil County now has Charter government that provides more local power and authority than in the past, a salary boost of the Sheriff—who is elected independently—would still require approval of the state legislature.)
The Cecil County Sheriff is currently paid $71,500 a year. Janney’s proposal would incrementally boost that pay, to $82,500 in calendar year 2015; $84,000 in 2016; $85,500 in 2017; and $87,000 in 2018.
The Cecil County Sheriff currently oversees one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the region, and also operates a recently expanded 360-bed Detention Center. In contrast, other much smaller counties of the Upper Shore region pay their Sheriff’s more money and do not have the added duties of running a large detention center.
For example, the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff is now paid $90,000 and does not have Detention Center responsibilities; tiny Kent County pays its sheriff $83,000 without jail control; and the Caroline County Sheriff gets $80,000 without Detention Center duties. Those counties, along with Cecil County, comprise the 36th legislative district in the General Assembly—and the 36th District delegation is a prime target of the proposed request for support in Annapolis for a boost for the Cecil County Sheriff’s pay.
According to data from the state Sheriff’s Association submitted by Janney to Moore, Cecil County’s Sheriff is the third-lowest paid in the state. Just rural Allegany County pays its sheriff the low sum of $61,000 and remote Somerset County pays $60,000.
Indeed, the Cecil County Sheriff is paid less than even some much smaller town police agencies in the county—such as $91,300 paid to the Elkton town police chief and $85,000 paid to the town of North East local chief.
The county Sheriff’s department derives a substantial part of its budget from state and federal grants and user fees—such as fees paid by work-release inmates– along with county government budget support.
Meanwhile, county taxpayers pay most of the costs of the county’s Emergency Services department, whose director, Richard Brooks, is one of the highest-paid county employees: $107,808 a year, or substantially more than the salary of the County Executive. Brooks’ agency oversees emergency call centers, disaster response, and the three county-operated paramedic units. (However, most of the county’s basic ambulance services are actually provided by local volunteer fire companies.)
Cecil County has been plagued with rising drug crime rates, in part related to the county’s location along I-95—a major East Coast drug trafficking corridor—and a recent state study found that the county had the highest rate of drug-related deaths in the state. Gov. Martin O’Malley recently met with Janney and other county officials for a drug summit to consider actions to combat the serious drug problem in Cecil County.
[UPDATE: Sheriff Janney met with the County Council and County Executive Tari Moore Tuesday afternoon to explain his proposal and suggested that the pay for the next sheriff be increased even more than his original proposal. He said he thought that, in fact, the salary should really be as high as $90,000 in 2015, because other sheriff’s in other counties are slated to receive higher pay than listed in the past state Sheriff’s Association salary survey.
“When I took this job it was not about the salary,” Janney said. And he said he declined to seek pay a pay boost after his re-election four years ago due to the recession and its impact on many citizens who had lost their jobs. “You can blame me,” he said, for “not asking” then but now requesting a large increase to compensate the next sheriff more “fairly.”
“I’m hoping it would attract quality people” to run for Sheriff, Janney said.
So far, six candidates have filed as candidates for Sheriff in the 2014 elections.
Two Democrats have filed in that party’s primary election contest: Guy Miller, a current county Deputy; and Bilton Morgan, a North East town police officer and a former longtime county Deputy.
On the Republican side, veteran Deputy and officer Chris Sutton has filed for his third run for Sheriff, after running as a Democrat in the past two elections; Scott Adams, a current Deputy supervising school resource officers; Chip Peterson, the Rising Sun town police chief and a former state trooper; and Dan Slater, a Deputy who ran unsuccessfully against Janney in the GOP primary in 2010.
Members of the County Council were non-committal on Tuesday about Janney’s proposed pay boost for the next sheriff. Their endorsement is not necessary for members of the state legislative delegation to introduce a bill to boost the Sheriff’s pay, but it would enhance the measure’s prospects. One seat in the delegation is currently vacant but is expected to be filled before the start of the next General Assembly session in January.