Rollins Gets Probation, Fine, Psych Review for Sex Charge Convictions; No Restitution to Taxpayers?

February 14, 2017
By

COMMENTARY

Cecil County State’s Attorney Edward D.E. “Ellis” Rollins III was sentenced to probation, a fine, community service and a mandatory psychological evaluation on Tuesday (2/14/2017) for his conviction on charges of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct in a sex-related case. But Cecil County taxpayers have yet to get justice for the salary and benefits costs they paid for months while Rollins was focused on his own personal legal problems instead of prosecuting criminals on behalf of local citizens.

Rollins appeared Tuesday morning in Worcester County Circuit Court, where Judge Brian Shockley imposed a 90-day suspended sentence for indecent exposure and a 60-day suspended sentence for disorderly conduct. The local prosecutor, Beau H. Oglesby, had requested six months jail time but the judge disagreed. Oglesby had initially ordered Rollins released without charges last June but, after a local blog reported on the incidents at an Ocean City hotel, and further investigation by local police, charges were filed several days later.

Indecent exposure is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Disorderly conduct” is a misdemeanor, punishable by a sentence of 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.

Rollins also received a $1,000 fine plus court costs, 18 months of probation, an order to perform 100 hours of community service, and a mandatory mental health evaluation to be followed by counseling, if necessary. [You can read an in-the-courtroom account of the day’s proceedings on the Salisbury Times’ Delmarva Now website here: http://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/local/maryland/2017/02/14/cecil-prosecutor-sentenced-exposure-case/97888656/ ]

Also on Tuesday, Cecil County Circuit Court judges met privately to discuss next steps in replacing Rollins as State’s Attorney. Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith Baynes told Cecil Times that no decisions were made on how to proceed and that further discussions would be held. Rollins submitted his resignation from office in an email sent to Baynes on Monday, with an effective date of the previous Friday afternoon. The state Constitution specifies that upon the resignation of a State’s Attorney, the local Circuit Court judges are empowered to fill the vacancy.

Rollins, a Republican, had nearly two years left in his current term. His replacement will serve on an interim basis, with voters choosing the next State’s Attorney in the November, 2018 elections for a four year term.

The charges against Rollins stemmed from multiple alleged incidents in Ocean City last year, while Rollins was attending a taxpayer-funded trip to a convention of the Maryland States’ Attorneys Association. He was accused of masturbating, performing sex acts and nudity in clear view of other vacationers in the oceanside resort while standing directly in front of a glass balcony door of his hotel room.

Several women, who were staying at an adjacent hotel, testified at the trial that they witnessed Rollins’ sexual performances on multiple occasions over a two-day period. The jury only convicted Rollins of acts that were also witnessed by a hotel security officer who had been summoned by the women.

While the legal proceedings for Rollins’ personal case are over—although he could very well file an appeal of his convictions by a jury after a two-day trial—there are still questions surrounding Rollins’ treatment of Cecil County taxpayers that might only be addressed by a separate legal inquiry—possibly by the State Prosecutor. The State Prosecutor is empowered by state law to investigate matters of corruption or legal violations by public officials.

The Maryland Constitution provides that a local State’s Attorney can be removed from office for “incompetency, willful neglect of duty, or misdemeanor in office, on conviction in a Court of Law, or by a vote of two-thirds of the Senate, on the recommendation of the Attorney-General.”

State Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office repeatedly refused to comment or signal any interpretation of the constitutional provisions when asked by the media or local officials during Cecil County’s long months of uncertainty, as Rollins’ case moved through the courts or even after Rollins 12/9/2016 conviction on two counts in the sex case. Now that Rollins has finally resigned from office, Frosh’s office is no doubt breathing a sigh of relief.

But there is still an important question, at least from the perspective of taxpayers, about who will seek justice for their wallets and how citizens might be reimbursed for the salary and benefits they paid since last summer for a State’s Attorney who was not delivering on the job.

Since charges were filed against him last June, Rollins had not appeared in local courtrooms to prosecute cases, leaving the already thinly-staffed office short-handed. Rollins was said to be working on administrative matters in his office, but multiple sources told Cecil Times that Rollins was essentially AWOL, and there were even times that papers needing signature had to be brought to him off-site.

Nevertheless, taxpayers continued to pay Rollins’ salary and benefits. According to county payroll records, Rollins’ annual salary and benefits cost taxpayers nearly $150,000 a year. So for July through January, the costs of his salary and benefits amounted to $87,500, for full services apparently not supplied.

By not performing the full duties of his position, while still collecting a full salary, could Rollins be construed as engaging in a “willful neglect of duty” that might warrant further legal action?

And if some state legal authority such as the State Prosecutor were to investigate the matter and perhaps seek restitution, they might also look into possible ethics law issues involving nepotism by Rollins. He hired his son, Kyle, as an “investigator” for the District Court operations of the State’s Attorney on the same day that the elder Rollins was sworn into office, although the son had minimal qualifications for a post that was previously held by a veteran State Police investigator. (The website for the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s office still lists Kyle Rollins as being employed as the investigator.)

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES Special Report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2014/06/cecil-county-states-attorney-hired-son-for-job-same-day-dad-sworn-in-primary-campaign-challenger-questions-nepotism/ ]

The State Prosecutor is empowered to investigate any matter involving public officials and their conduct in office. But individual citizens or local government agencies can file complaints and request an investigation from the Towson-based special prosecutor’s office.

As Cecil County heads into its Fiscal 2018 budget cycle—with a public meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening by Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy to get citizen input into the county’s fiscal issues—every dollar counts. And taxpayers have the right to expect that their hard-earned dollars will be spent to deliver the services they pay for.

For the past seven months, that has not been the case with the State’s Attorney. Taxpayers deserve a refund.

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ALAN McCARTHY for COUNTY EXEC

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*We will work together to make Cecil County "The Best It Can Be."

(Auth: Friends of Alan McCarthy, Roger Owens, Treas.)

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