Sheriff Robert Pepersack misled constituents when he accepted donations for a non-profit foundation supporting his office, County Council members charged yesterday.
The Sheriff's Foundation, set up by Pepersack and his supporters last fall to supplement the sheriff's regular budget, has never filed with the federal government for status as a non-profit charitable organization, council members said. Yet, Pepersack wrote a letter to at least one person saying his $10 donation was tax-deductible.
"It's incredibly misleading," said Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, an Arnold Republican.
"We never intended to mislead anyone," replied the sheriff, also a Republican.
It was the second straight day of grilling for the sheriff, who has peeved the council by running about $140,000 over budget, largely because of an increase in Circuit Court security.
A bill granting the sheriff a last-minute transfer of $184,700 has been before the council for a month. The sheriff runs out of money May 15.
The transfer bill was never mentioned yesterday.
Instead, the council wanted to know whether Pepersack involved the county in a private foundation by using the county government's tax number.
The Sheriff's Foundation did not use the county's tax number, although such an arrangement is not unusual, said John Greiber, an Annapolis attorney who serves on the foundation's board of directors and donates his advice.
"If it was not used, there was no county issue," Greiber told the council.
Greiber said he advised the foundation's board of directors eight months ago to file the proper forms with the federal government, but did not know if anyone had done so. If the forms have not been filed, Greiber said he believes the foundation can file retroactively for non-profit tax status.
The council asked Pepersack to appear again today with copies of all checks signed by the foundation.
"This is overkill," Greiber said outside the council chambers afterward.
About $2,500 has been raised through the foundation so far, said Pepersack, who also sits on the board of directors. The organization has paid for deputies' shoulder patches, travel to training sessions and a fax machine, he said.
The council's interrogation is a symptom of a feud with Pepersack that has dragged on for weeks.
Last month, the council took the unprecedented step of subpoenaing Pepersack after he left a hearing on the transfer bill. When he answered that subpoena Monday, he was quizzed on a variety of seemingly innocuous issues -- money spent for a set of hubcaps, $75 for stationery, $220 to send letters to community associations asking how he could serve them better.
Evans said Pepersack showed a disturbing "pattern of spending."