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In straw vote, council upholds deletion of undersheriff position Members split, 3-3, on auditor's view


Countering the Anne Arundel County auditor's recommendation, budget officer Steven Welkos urged the County Council yesterday to retain the position of undersheriff and leave intact the proposed funding for the Sheriff's Office.

In a straw vote last night, the council failed to override the auditor's recommendation to cut funding for the $53,000 undersheriff position.

The council could take up the matter today if it takes final action on the $668 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

County Auditor Joseph H. Novotny recommended Tuesday that Sheriff Robert G. Pepersack Sr.'s proposed $1.8 million budget be trimmed by $236,120.

The cuts, if approved, could kill a January agreement between Sheriff Pepersack and County Executive Robert R. Neall over spending by the sheriff.

Under the agreement, the county funded the undersheriff position and a 5 percent budget increase in the 1994 and 1995 fiscal years. In return, the sheriff agreed to submit to the same budgeting strictures as other county departments.

Both Mr. Neall and Sheriff Pepersack agreed to drop competing bills in the General Assembly that would have legislated control of the Sheriff's Office in their own favor.

"In the executive's opinion, the request presented by the county sheriff is concurrent with the agreement," Mr. Welkos said.

The sheriff clashed with both Mr. Neall and the council when he overspent his budget in the past two fiscal years.

He argued that the council was not giving him enough money to do his job and went to the county's General Assembly delegation in an effort to gain fiscal control over his office.

J. Patrick Ogle was undersheriff until Mr. Neall eliminated the position from the current budget. Sheriff Pepersack filed suit in Circuit Court against Mr. Neall and the council, accusing them of overstepping their authority when they cut the position.

The sheriff has said he will drop the suit if the position is restored.

Mr. Ogle continued to work for Sheriff Pepersack, but he did so as chief deputy, a position that paid about $10,000 less than undersheriff.

It is still unclear how the council will vote on this issue.

Last night, Councilman Carl G. Holland, a Pasadena Republican, introduced a motion to override Mr. Novotny's recommendation not to fund the undersheriff position.

But the motion failed when it received votes only from Mr. Holland and council members Diane Evans, an Arnold Republican, and George Bachman, a Linthicum Democrat. It was opposed by Edward Middlebrooks of Severn, Maureen Lamb of Annapolis, and Virginia Clagett, of West River, all Democrats.

Council Chairman David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Democrat, the potential deciding vote, was out of the room when the vote was taken. He sat in on a meeting in January when the agreement between Sheriff Pepersack and Mr. Neall was struck and said Tuesday night that he agreed with it in principle. But, he added, the council still had to consider the matter as a body.

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