Rollins Resigns as Cecil County State’s Attorney, After Conviction on Sex-Related Charges; Kept Collecting Salary for Months
Edward D.E. â€śEllisâ€ť Rollins III has resigned as Cecil County Stateâ€™s Attorney, after clinging to his job and its nearly $150,000 taxpayer-paid salary and benefits for months after he was charged with indecent exposure and disorderly conduct stemming from alleged sex-related incidents in Ocean City.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday 2/14/2017 in Worcester County Circuit Court for his 12/9/2016 conviction on two charges after a two-day jury trial. He was found not guilty on two other counts, one each of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct.
For the two charges on which Rollins was convicted, â€śindecent exposureâ€ť is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, â€śdisorderly conductâ€ť is a misdemeanor, punishable by a sentence of 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine
Since charges were filed against him last June, Rollins has 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 salary and benefits. According to county payroll records, Rollinsâ€™ 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.
Rollins sent an email on Monday morning to Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith Baynes informing the judge that Rollins was resigning, effective last Friday afternoon, the judge confirmed. That step sets in motion provisions specified by the Maryland Constitution to fill the Stateâ€™s Attorney position on an interim basis.
Baynes said that the Circuit Court judges will meet on Tuesday morning to â€śdiscussâ€ť the situation and how to proceed. He said he had no idea how long it might take for the judges to pick a replacement for Rollins.
The state Constitution provides that, if there is a vacancyâ€”due to death, resignation or removal from officeâ€”for a county Stateâ€™s Attorney, it is the judges sitting on the local Circuit Court bench who decide who should fill the position until the next election, when the voters would decide upon a replacement. There are about two years left on Rollinsâ€™ term of office before a new Stateâ€™s Attorney would be selected by county voters in November, 2018. (Rollins is a Republican, who was elected to one four-year term and then re-elected in 2014.)
The Maryland Constitution also provides that an elected Stateâ€™s Attorney can be removed from office for â€śincompetence, willful neglect of duty, or misdemeanors 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 Generalâ€¦â€ť
That language indicated that the State Attorney General could have intervened in the matter, at least clearly after Rollinsâ€™ December conviction, to declare a vacancy in the office and set in motion the process for the judgesâ€™ to select a replacement. But the office of Attorney General Brian Frosh was notably silent on the matter, declining to respond to emails or phone calls from CECIL TIMES since last December. Sources said some official requests for information or clarification of the constitutional procedures met similar non-responses for several months.
Since Rollins was charged, deputy Stateâ€™s Attorney Steve Trostle has essentially been running the office, multiple sources said. One assistant stateâ€™s attorney resigned recently, further reducing staff to prosecute cases in local courts.
During a recent Cecil County Council worksession, county Finance Director Winston Robinson advised that the Stateâ€™s Attorneyâ€™s office was over budget in the current fiscal year by about $45,000. He said the reason was that some salary raises had not been included in the current budget year request but costs had been incurred. Robinson noted at the time that the fiscal issue might be related to the â€śturmoilâ€ť in that office but might also be offset by the end of the fiscal year through staff â€śattrition.â€ť
The departure of Rollins and the one assistant stateâ€™s attorney creates two vacant prosecutorial slots in the office.
The Rollins case has caused embarrassment for Cecil County in state political and legal circles, as well as bringing negative state, national and international publicity to the county at a time when local officials are trying to put the best face forward of a pro-business, economically viable community to attract new businesses and economic development.
The salacious nature of the Rollins case may have drawn the headlines, but perhaps more significant has been the long drawn-out shadow over county operations and the impact on taxpayers, including business interests.
The charges against Rollins stem from multiple alleged incidents in Ocean City last year, while Rollins was attending a taxpayer-funded trip to a convention of the Maryland Statesâ€™ Attorneyâ€™s 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 Rollinsâ€™ 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.