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Cecil County State’s Attorney Hired Son for Job Same Day Dad Sworn in; Primary Campaign Challenger Questions Nepotism

June 13, 2014
By Nancy Schwerzler

Cecil County State’s Attorney E.D.E. (Ellis) Rollins III, who is seeking re-election to his post, hired his son as an investigator– who began work the same day his father was sworn into office– although he lacked the law enforcement experience of previous occupants of the position. The hiring has become an issue in the current Republican primary campaign.

Ellis Rollins’ son, Kyle Rollins, was hired as an investigator in the State’s Attorney office on 1/3/11, according to county Human Resources Director Donna Nichols, who said his current salary is $53,664. He is scheduled to receive a 4.75 percent pay raise—including a 1.75 percent cost-of-living increase—effective 7/1/14, she added.

The State’s Attorney’s office receives funds from Cecil County government as well as the state but its personnel policies come under the county government’s HR office, Nichols said. The county has an anti-nepotism policy regarding the “employment of relatives” but Nichols said it was determined that the elder Rollins would not be directly supervising his son.

The elder Rollins told Cecil Times that there was an appellate court case that was “on point” that indicated there was no conflict in hiring his son for the position. He said he notified county officials—including former County Commissioners president James Mullin—shortly after the November 2010 election of his intent to hire his son. Rollins said that while some employees of his office were subject to the county’s HR policies, “at will” employees including investigators were not covered by that policy and only subject to the States Attorney’s discretion.

His son, Kyle Rollins, is assigned as an investigator to assist law enforcement officers in their court cases in the District Court, and he is directly supervised by Rich Achuff, a former state trooper assigned as the State’s Attorney office’s investigator for the Circuit Court. (The previous District Court investigator was also a former state trooper.)

Kyle Rollins, who is a high school graduate, holds the county liquor license for the Alibi Inn in Warwick. In 2009, Kyle Rollins and another Rollins family member were among the licensees when the county liquor board fined them $1,000 plus $250 in costs for serving alcohol to an under-age person. During the hearing on the case, a board member noted it was the second time in a year that an underage drinking case had been filed against the establishment. In 2011, the liquor license was transferred to Kyle Rollins and he is currently listed as the sole licensee, county liquor board officials said.

The elder Rollins was elected in the November 2010 election, after defeating incumbent Christopher Eastridge, a Democrat, in a fiercely contested campaign. Rollins was sworn into office on 1/3/11. His son’s hiring date is the same.

Rollins is seeking re-election this year and is facing a challenge in the Republican primary from Michael Halter, a former assistant state’s attorney who also ran against Rollins in 2010 but lost in the primary.

Halter said the hiring of Kyle Rollins raises nepotism questions but broader qualification issues are more significant. “If he was a former police officer and the State’s Attorney’s son, I wouldn’t raise the issue,” Halter said. “But Kyle is simply not qualified” for the position, he added. Halter said he and several others in the office met with the elder Rollins shortly after his son was hired at which questions of Kyle’s competency for the position were raised.

The elder Rollins said in an interview with Cecil Times that he recalled no such meeting taking place, and stated he believed his son is qualified because he worked for him in his private law practice for several years as an investigator.

Ellis Rollins counter-charged that he fired Halter as an assistant State’s Attorney after three warnings about Halter’s personal postings on social media that Rollins felt reflected badly on the prosecutor’s office. One of the postings, Rollins said, made critical comments about Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36).

The lack of law enforcement experience and the salary of the younger Rollins have raised some concerns among law enforcement officers, many of whom are paid much less for dangerous, life-threatening duties. Sheriff Barry Janney has testified at recent County Council budget hearings that he starts all new deputies—including police officers with decades of experience in Baltimore City and other area police agencies—at a meager $39,000 a year.

Some veteran law enforcement officers bringing a case to District Court are concerned that they have to deal with an investigator without the law enforcement training and experience they have.

The elder Rollins expressed surprise at his son’s salary, saying he was unaware of it and that his son’s supervisor “never had a conversation with me about it.”

Although county liquor board issues are usually handled in an administrative forum, if any issues ended up in court– as they sometimes do—the elder Rollins said that any issues involving his son’s liquor license would be referred to an independent counsel, “just as I would do for anything involving any member of my family.”

Meanwhile, former county attorney Norman Wilson told Cecil Times he was never asked for a legal opinion on the hiring of Rollins’ son during that time.

Ellis Rollins said that he relied upon an appellate court ruling regarding Kyle’s situation and also obtained advice from the state Attorney General’s office regarding the handling of cases involving his other lawyer sons who might be defense lawyers in cases brought by the State’s Attorney’s office coming before the local courts. The AG’s opinion specified procedures to ensure there was a wall between the State’s Attorney’s office and any cases handled by Ellis Rollins’ lawyer sons, the elder Rollins said.

Meanwhile, state Board of Elections campaign finance records show that challenger Halter is running a bare-bones campaign while Rollins has received substantial donations that have financed a billboard, flyers, and road signs.

Halter has filed affidavits declaring that he has neither raised from contributors nor spent on expenses more than $1,000 since filing his candidacy. Rollins’ campaign finance reports show multiple large donations and printing, yard sign and billboard expenditures.

Rollins’ campaign finance reports show some significant contributions on his two most recent filings with the state Board of Elections. Rollins pre-primary 1 report, filed 5/17/14, listed contributions of $7,550. His most recent pre-primary 2 report, filed 6/13/14, listed additional contributions of $2,200. After printing of flyers, yard signs and the usual campaign expenses, Rollins still had $6,438 in his campaign warchest for the final days of the GOP primary campaign.

Whoever wins the GOP primary will be the ultimate victor. Democrats have not fielded a candidate for the November general election.

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12 Responses to Cecil County State’s Attorney Hired Son for Job Same Day Dad Sworn in; Primary Campaign Challenger Questions Nepotism

  1. Too much government on June 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Cecil County citizens better wake up and fully understand the extent of problems in local government, the legal system, the Health Dept. and administrative offices including the Executive branch. Cecil Co is the laughing stock of the State. I personally am embarrassed to admit I live in this county.

    Attorney Halter may have been fired from the States Attorney’s office but from watching him in action, the people Rollins should be concerned about are his other employees. Halter has handled several issues for me and he was right on target and won those cases.

    The current State’s Attorney hiring of other friends and relatives besides his son is well known. We need changes at every level of goverment, lets start those changes locally by getting out and vote prudently.

    • Bonnie on June 17, 2014 at 10:22 am

      It’s that time again.  Time to look at who we can trust to be there for the citizens of Cecil County.

      I am a victim of a crime.  I contacted the States Attorneys Office because the trial was coming up, and I had noticed on the Maryland Judiciary website that the case had been assigned to a new Prosecutor.  I thought that I should call and set up either an appointment, or just a phone call in order to talk with the Prosecutor trying the case, in addition to putting a face to the victim in the case.  I called a week prior to the trial date, never received an answer. 

      I know that I’m not the only victim in the county, so I figured,  we’ll talk the day of the trial.  I arrived, along with other witnesses, and one by one we were asked to go in and talk with the investigator for the States Attorneys Office. I’m thinking, and even stated, “why wasn’t this done last year, in the beginning?”  The investigator stated “I just had this given to me ten minutes before I called you in here”.  Needless to say, after less than thirty minutes, and five witnesses later, I’m being advised (by the investigator) that his recommendation would be not to proceed.

      I stated “I would like to speak with Mr. Rollins before a decision is made.”  He replied, “I’ll let him know.”  The next thing I know is the witnesses were being dismissed, I was asking questions, and getting no answers. I asked again to speak with Mr. Rollins. I was told I would have to wait until he was finished the docket, I waited for two hours!  I left a message that I would like a call, or again an appointment. 

      Imagine how it feels to be a victim of a crime, and then being treated like you are the criminal.  I called almost every day and left messages. I wanted answers, I deserved to be treated with integrity, respect, compassion, dignity, and a lot more!  Exactly one week, and one day later I got a call. 

      “The decision was made not to try the case.” Keep in mind that the defendant got the right to postpone the trial several times, even request a paid attorney, in order to suit his purpose, and then I as the victim had nothing! I had to look on the Maryland Judiciary website to see what happened with the case in order to get an answer. 

      I was under the impression that the States Attorney who took an oath, was the one who stood up for the victims? It’s time we get someone in the States Attorneys Office who will stand up for the victims!

      Please vote for Michael Halter for States Attorney! 

  2. Mike R on June 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    OMG what goes on in this county doesn’t surprise me any longer. Another shadow of the three amigos coming out of the closet. Interesting how Rollins defends his hiring of his son but fires Halter for writing on facebook because his comments were reflecting on the State ‘s Attorney office. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    Does it not occur to him how his nepotism reflects on his office? Guess not. Where’s the leadership? I guess it boils down to do as I say, not as I do. Sound familiar –guess I can put him in the same category as Mullin, Broomell and Dunn. Deja vu.

    • Brian B on June 16, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      Well, Cecil County had an extremely intelligent (I venture to say his IQ is at least 40 points or more above Rollins’) and a relatively apolitical state’s attorney in Chris Eastridge. But it’s Cecil County’s own fault. You get who you vote for. Voting a straight Republican ticket regardless of intelligence and qualifications is just as stupid – and as lazy – as voting a straight Democratic ticket.

      • RED 833 on June 17, 2014 at 1:51 pm

        I don’t know anything about the IQ scores of Eastridge and Rollins. I do know that Eastridge had a poor record while in office. His conviction rate was low and many cases were dismissed due to his missing of deadlines required under the law.

  3. Bob Laird on June 16, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Whether I support Rollins or I support Halter, I would like to know one thing: THIS HAS BEEN AN ISSUE SINCE 2011, WHY HAS IT BEEN “SAVED” UNTIL THE WEEK BEFORE THE PRIMARY? (I think we all know the truth – I just think it’s lame, political crap)

    • Eddie Salis on June 21, 2014 at 6:50 am

      Exactly. Regardless of who any of us support, and whether or not there are valid points in the article, the timing is petty and just as small-town as the accusations they are trying to lay. Shameful.

      • Laura on June 23, 2014 at 7:45 am

        The average citizen had no idea that Rollins had hired his son until Halter talked about it. So you seem to be saying no one should dare to talk about it now because there is a political campaign going on. If it was wrong then it is still wrong now. And it WAS wrong. This is just part of the arrogant attitude of “I can do whatever I want” because my family has a big name in Elkton.

        • Bob Laird on June 23, 2014 at 8:56 am

          No, I don’t seem to be saying that at all. I am saying that, if the average citizen needed to know this (which I agree we did by the way), Mr. Halter should have brought it to light the INSTANT he found out about it.

  4. SchoolMarm on June 16, 2014 at 11:47 am

    My daughter, who knows such things, tells me Halter and his wife have constantly been derisive on their Facebook pages. She describes the verbal antics as “very middle-school like.” (These pages are open to the public, which is the decision of the individual to make,) Too bad the Democrats couldn’t find a viable candidate for this important judicial post. Sounds like neither of these candidates is judicial.

    • Charlie W. on June 18, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      SchoolMarm, I’ve seen some really juvenile statements on the Facebook page of the son of the state attorney who got the job, without having to go thru the usual competition that most of us have to go thru to try to get a job in this tough economy. Maybe your daughter should have looked there too? When you don’t have a lot of money like the fatcat lawyers you talk to on facebook. If you don’t have the money for billboards, you talk wherever you can.

  5. Laura on June 18, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Were any other persons even considered for this job? It seems like Rollins had it in his mind from day one to put his son in this job without having competitive applications for this nice salary job. This looks like family-friendly policy gone wild. There are a lot of cops who can no longer physically do their job but have the brains to be investigators to help put the criminals in jail. Why not put a previous cop into this job?

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