Cecil County Council Splits on Any Pay Raise for new Sheriff; County Exec Asks Smaller Boost than Retiring Sheriff Janney Proposed

January 14, 2014

It must have been a political version of the “polar vortex,” that has turned the weather topsy turvey lately, when Cecil County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) sided with his two usual foes on the Council Tuesday in opposing any pay raise in Fiscal 2015 for whatever individual is elected sheriff in this year’s elections.

Although no formal vote was taken, Hodge said he had “a tendency to agree with” Councilors Diana Broomell (R-4) and Michael Dunn (R-3), who refused to consider any pay raise in the upcoming budget. But Councilors Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2) and Alan McCarthy (R-1) voiced strong support for a pay boost.

Sheriff Barry Janney, who is retiring at the end of this year, had proposed a pay boost for his successor, pointing out that Cecil County’s sheriff—currently paid $71,500 a year—is the third lowest-paid sheriff in the state of Maryland. (Rural Allegany County pays its sheriff $61,000 and remote Somerset County pays $60,000, and those sheriffs do not have the responsibility of running a large detention center, as Janney does.)

Indeed, the Cecil County Sheriff is paid less than leaders of 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.

County Executive Tari Moore recently sent the County Council a scaled-down version of Janney’s request. She called for raising the salary in Fiscal 2015 to $75,075, followed by about 3 percent annual boosts over the next several years, reaching a salary of $82,075 in Fiscal 2018. Janney’s request had called for a boost to $82,500 in Fiscal 2015, rising to $87,000 in Fiscal 2018.

“I believe his request has some merit, especially when compared to other Maryland jurisdictions with similar responsibilities,” Moore wrote to the Council. But she said she wanted to scale back Janney’s request and favored “something more gradual and phased-in.”

(However, since the pay raise would only become effective when a new Sheriff is sworn in, the actual budget cost in Fiscal 2015 would only cover about seven months of that budget year.)

The Sheriff is elected independently and, under the state Constitution, is considered a state official whose salary cannot be cut by local government. But a statutory pay raise must get approval from the General Assembly. That’s why Janney raised the issue several months ago, in time to get the county government on board with the idea so that the area’s state legislative delegation could introduce a bill in Annapolis during the current General Assembly session.

Councilor Dunn, who usually says little if anything at Council worksessions, found his voice to declare, “I don’t think it’s an appropriate time to do this” due to “economic conditions.” He said the county should “do nothing.”

Broomell agreed, saying “I’m alarmed at the amount of money we have spent” since Charter government began a year ago. “This isn’t the time to take on any new costs.”

Hodge said he leaned toward their position, adding that “a lot of people want this job” regardless of the salary. (A crowded field of candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, has already filed in the 2014 election for the position and there is still another month left before the candidate filing deadline.)

Bowlsbey took strong issue with Hodge’s view, saying that the sheriff “has officers who are making more than he does” due to overtime and other pay provisions. “You get what you pay for,” she said. And she said it was important to have underlings “respect” the county’s top cop, but that was hard to do if the sheriff is paid less than some deputies.

McCarthy agreed, saying the Council nay-sayers were setting up the county to “price ourselves out of the market” and that top tier, experienced law enforcement leaders would not consider working in the county for such low pay.

Bowlsbey said the first-year cost was so small that the Council could cut its own budget to cover the expense—suggesting at one point that the council members forego attendance at the winter meeting of the Maryland Association of Counties and the costs of sending county officials and staff to the multi-day event.

Broomell, who often waxes poetic about the MACO conclaves, seemed shocked that her colleague would even suggest that. Bowlsbey said she was actually making a “tongue-in-cheek” suggestion to illustrate the relatively insignificant cost of the first year sheriff salary boost, which she said would not “sink this county.”

Then Hodge, seeing his usual allies desert him, suggested that the council freeze the salary for Fiscal 2015 but then propose some unspecified increase for Fiscal 2016.

“We’re kind of splitting hairs,” McCarthy said.

“I’m going to hold firm on this one,” Bowlsbey said, leaning forward and staring straight at Hodge.

Hodge then closed the discussion without any formal action by the Council, saying, “We’re going to have to talk a bit more.”

In an interview with Cecil Times on Tuesday, Janney expressed disappointment with the Council discussion—and Moore’s greatly scaled back proposal, which he said she had not shared with him before it was sent to the County Council.

“I was very, very conservative” in the salary increase proposal, Janney said, adding “this is not for me” since he is retiring and won’t get a penny of any pay raise.

“We are the 6th largest law enforcement agency in the state,” he noted, and his department is designated by the state as the “primary law enforcement agency” in the county—a designation that the State Police have been reluctant to give up in many other largely rural counties but that three State Police superintendents have conferred on the Cecil County Sheriff’s Department.

It is a slap in the face and harmful to deputies’ morale when they see their department out-paid by local municipal police agencies, Janney observed.

Janney also had a warning for the County Council for the future. Unless the county has a team leading the Sheriff’s department that is professional and savvy about legal issues, the county could be on the hook for judgments in lawsuits filed by people having issues with the law enforcement agency.

Janney said, with pride, that although his agency has been sued “hundreds of times” he hasn’t lost a case yet and has worked closely with the state Attorney General’s office that defends his agency in civil lawsuits. He said the AG’s office has been pleased with the documentation and professionalism of the current sheriff’s office that has enabled successful defenses.

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report on Sheriff Janney’s original salary proposal here:

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5 Responses to Cecil County Council Splits on Any Pay Raise for new Sheriff; County Exec Asks Smaller Boost than Retiring Sheriff Janney Proposed

  1. Mike R on January 15, 2014 at 9:34 am

    There is a very easy solution to this budget problem. Who is the most necessary of the departments within the county? Law Enforcement, in my opinion. Therefore, cut the salaries of Moore and Wein and other department heads whose responsibilities are far less important than law enforcement and provide a substantial increase to a position that is very vital to the safety of the taxpayers of this county.

    …Put that money where it will get the most for the taxpayers. And again I must mention that the Commissioners certainly had plenty of money to shell out 2.2 million of our taxpayers dollars for animal control which again is unnecessary since the Buddy for Life crowd doesn’t handle the worst animal problem in our county– CATS.

    The Sheriff should be the best paid government official in this county.

    • Sandy W on January 15, 2014 at 9:43 am

      Maybe animal control should be turned over to the Sheriff’s office. After all, who knows the laws better than trained deputies? Transfer that money to the Sheriff’s Office and I guarantee that would not only make the animal control efforts much more responsive and the accountability would be transparent.

      The deputies could enforce the law and the animals could be taken to a fully equipped building on Route 213 that can house and accomodate all of the county’s needs for animals. Or is it that politics is more important than making a common sense change that would be cheaper in the long run, and serve the public and public safety better than the sorry amateurs who are getting $2 million plus of our taxpayer dollars.

      • David W on January 15, 2014 at 8:36 pm

        The only thing transferring money to the Sheriff’s office does is give control of that money to the Sheriff. The Sheriff is a separate elected official and does not report to the County Executive. Accountability? Transparency? Once every four years.

  2. Ron Lobos on January 15, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I sometimes wonder, when different departments ask for increases in salaries and budgets, why our County Council and County Executive don’t ask for something in return. In the private sector, business is done this way. It’s called quid pro quo.

    We might want to ask that the next sheriff be required to spend at least 20 hours a week in his county supplied office. This would serve more than anything to raise the level of respect his men have for him….I would like to encourage our elected officials to start asking more of our county departments instead of just being an audience to the requests for more and more money. It might be nice to see our elected officials conduct budget matters like the money being spent is coming directly out of their own pockets instead of our pockets.

  3. Joe C on January 17, 2014 at 6:20 am

    Had modest increases been programed into the salary in years past we would not be in this situation today. I would think that increases tied to the cost of living index would be warranted for all employees. We need to stop this situation where department begs and increase. Everyone should be treated the same. Now there would have to be a kick out if economic conditions are bad.

    Hodge knows that there will be huge tax and fee increases in 2016 to pay for the run away spending and debt increase of $70 million dollars. I agree the raise should be phased in for now and when economic conditions improved perhaps some salary incentives could be added. I would like to see incentitives for reducing drug and drug related crimes. Many professionals are paid using base salary plus incentitives. Time to think out of the box.

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