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Delegation OKs bill to raise sheriff's pay

February 11, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- The salary for the Washington County sheriff could be raised to $88,000 from $80,000 in 2010 under a bill being considered by the Maryland General Assembly.

The bill would allow the County Commissioners, rather than state lawmakers, to decide future raises.

Washington County's delegation to the General Assembly voted 6-2 Wednesday in favor of introducing the bill. Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, were opposed.

The proposal replaces one made last week that would have raised the county sheriff's pay to $105,000 beginning in 2010. That scale, recommended by Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore, would have made the sheriff the highest-paid employee in the Sheriff's Department. The new bill would not.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, suggested the bill that was voted on Wednesday.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington, said Washington County lawmakers were divided on the issue of the sheriff's salary.

Commissioners President John F. Barr said the current County Commissioners don't mind taking on the responsibility of setting the sheriff's salary.

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"Our current sheriff, with his credentials, training and background ... the police chief of Hagerstown makes 30 percent more than the sheriff, who has twice the amount of duties," Barr said.

Mooney said he did not see the need to alter the bill from what the County Commissioners originally proposed, which was a raise for the sheriff to $88,000 and no change in the way raises are decided. Mooney said the system of checks and balances currently in place is important.

Shank's bill also requires County Commissioners to establish a salary study committee solely to make recommendations on the sheriff's salary.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said deciding local salaries is a waste of time for state delegates.

"We're all very busy down here," he said. "I think it is a clear example of why we need charter government in Washington County. We don't need to be micro-managing. It's a shame we have to waste so much time looking at these things."

Munson said he voted against the bill because giving the power to decide the sheriff's salary to the County Commissioners could politicize the office of sheriff.

"It's going to cause a situation where (County Commissioners are) going to hold the sheriff hostage," Munson said. "The sheriff is going to be held hostage, and law enforcement in Washington County is going to suffer greatly."

Munson said the delegation's decision to support the change in how the salary is decided could set a precedent, leading the County Commissioners to start deciding more salaries of local elected officials, including their own.

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