A $500 advertisement in a Harford County weekly newspaper praising the work of Sheriff Robert E. Comes in implementing a centralized booking center has left some wondering who paid for it.
Sheriff Comes said last night that his wife, Carol, paid for the ad out of their personal account.
The four-column, 11-inch ad, which appeared in the July 21 issue of the Aegis, duplicated a Harford County proclamation signed by the county executive and seven council members.
County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann has been spearheading a campaign to significantly reduce the powers of the sheriff's office.
The county proclamation was issued July 6, eight days after Ms. Rehrmann publicly questioned the sheriff's leadership abilities and unveiled her plan to strip the sheriff's office of much of its authority.
The proclamation lauded Sheriff Comes for receiving the 1992 National Association of Counties Achievement Award for establishing the Interagency Processing Center, a central booking location used by state, county and municipal police agencies in the county.
A permanent staff trained in booking procedures processes prisoners and enables arresting officers to return to patrol more quickly.
The proclamation also said that the sheriff "spent only $35,000" to implement the IPC, which has resulted in an estimated saving of "more than $100,000" in work hours in its first 10 months of operation.
Mrs. Rehrmann is on vacation this week and unavailable for comment.
But county spokesman George Harrison said yesterday that her signing the proclamation acknowledged a positive accomplishment by the sheriff.
Mrs. Rehrmann was a strong supporter of the cooperative effort of state and county police and the sheriff's office to implement the Interagency Processing Center. It was only natural she would praise it, Mr. Harrison said.
A copy of the proclamation was published as a display ad in the county weekly. An inserted salutation read: "Dear Harford Countians: This is just one example of your Sheriff's Office at work."
The Maryland Sheriff's Association has vigorously supported the sheriff in his battle with Mrs. Rehrmann over a possible transfer of the Detention Center, police dispatch and criminal patrol divisions of the sheriff's office to a county police force under control of the county executive.