Harford County District B council member Aaron Penman said Wednesday that he believes an investigation should take place after funds were transferred from the county’s general fund to the Department of Emergency Services prior to a vote on the move by council.
The Harford County Council postponed a vote scheduled for Tuesday’s legislative session on the bill that would appropriate money from the county’s general fund to the Department of Emergency Services.
According to the bill’s fiscal note, if passed, the bill would authorize $7 million to be spent on hiring EMTs and paramedics, and purchasing medications and ambulances. The bill was introduced April 18 by Council President Patrick Vincenti, at the request of Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly, and a public hearing was held on May 16.
A companion bill also was introduced that would transfer the responsibility of county volunteer fire company operating standards from the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Association to the county’s emergency services department.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Penman raised concerns that the $7 million had already been transferred to the emergency services department on May 2.
“This unauthorized transfer of funds is a clear violation of the Harford County Charter,” Penman said during the meeting.
The charter provision in question states: “Transfers between agencies of the County government and within the same fund of the current expense budget may be made only during the last quarter of the fiscal year, and then only on the recommendation of the County Executive and with the approval of the Council.”
Penman said the $7 million transfer was revealed by an audit, but that the funds had been returned to the county’s general fund prior to Tuesday’s council meeting.
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Cassilly said the transfer was “proper, routine, and necessary,” and that Penman’s comments were an “unwarranted attack on [his administration’s] integrity and ability.”
“This transfer was necessary to provide sufficient funding for the additional ambulance personnel and equipment,” Cassilly said Thursday in a statement to The Aegis. “It was not an attempt to alter the legal appropriation of DES, nor was it an attempt to supersede the authority of the County Council.”
Cassilly said the county’s treasury department added the $7 million requested supplemental budget appropriation to the emergency services department in the county’s financial system in order to complete year-end reports.
“The director of DES can, without council approval, properly spend within his total budget provided he does not exceed the total amount,” Cassilly said.
“My intent is just to investigate how and why this was actually done and whether this has been done before,” Penman said.