Sheriff Robert G. Pepersack Sr. announced this week that his office generated an all-time high of more than $380,000 in revenue for the county during the past fiscal year -- more than double the previous high of $128,000 in 1990, according to the sheriff.
But county officials said yesterday that Sheriff Pepersack's claim is wishful thinking at best.
The dispute is the latest salvo in the battle between Sheriff Pepersack and the county government over control of the sheriff's budget. Sheriff Pepersack filed suit in Circuit Court last month accusing the county executive and County Council of interfering with his office's operation by cutting the position of undersheriff.
County Budget Officer Steven E. Welkos said the figure released by the Sheriff's Office is misleading because it includes money that passes through Sheriff's Pepersack's department but has never been counted as revenue in the county budget.
The $128,000 figure from 1990 cited by Sheriff Pepersack includes only the money charged for civil process and summons fees that are delivered by deputies; that is the only figure the county considers revenue generated by the Sheriff's Office. By that measure, the Sheriff's Office generated $172,020 during the past fiscal year, Mr. Welkos said. Even that number is disputed by the Sheriff's Office, which estimates civil summons fees at $208,266.
But Mr. Welkos pointed out that during fiscal 1990, the fee per summons was $15. The court currently charges $30 for each summons, so to arrive at a figure for true comparison, it is necessary to divide Sheriff Pepersack's total in half, which "indicates they're serving fewer papers," he said.
"To say it's the most collected is not incorrect," Mr. Welkos said. But taking into account the higher fee charged per summons, "it's not as wonderful as it may seem."
The sheriff's figure of more than $380,000 was cited in his lawsuit against County Executive Robert R. Neall and the County Council. The suit argued that the position of undersheriff should not have been cut because it helped the office run more efficiently, resulting in the higher revenue.
In addition to summons fees, the figure includes $1,525 for criminal warrants served; $53,133 for money collected on delinquent alimony or child-support payments, which is turned over to the domestic relations department; and $118,902 that the federal government reimbursed to the county for costs incurred in domestic relations enforcement.
Mr. Welkos said that money had never previously been counted as revenue generated by the Sheriff's Office.
But J. Patrick Ogle, Sheriff Pepersack's chief deputy and undersheriff until the post was cut, said including the additional revenue was a legitimate measure of the work done by the Sheriff's Office. "We're counting all revenue collected by us, the cash that passed through our hands to the county," he said. "It's not a surprise to anybody. I can't make this up. They are the same figures we use in our budget presentations."