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The Tentacle


September 27, 2011

City Police Dilemma Part One

Roy Meachum

Nearly 27 years ago, when I wrote my first Frederick column, ex-State Trooper Bob Snyder ran the sheriff’s department. To say he was extremely political is to compare North Pole’s annual snowfall to Miami’s.

 

Half dozen years later, he was defeated by another former trooper, Carl Harbaugh, who in turn yielded to another ex-state cop, Jim Hagy. In that atmosphere, I wrote Frederick city police should take over law enforcement for the county to avoid political manipulation; it was working for Bethesda when I moved here

 

The first summer of Frederick News-Post column, the veterinarian James E. “Doc” McClellan had Sheriff Snyder call me.“Some of my friends,” he said, “want to know what office you want.” He seemed disappointed with my answer: “I’m a journalist with absolutely no political ambitions.”

 

The call came when I didn’t know the lay of Frederick County and was friends with “Doc” McClellan – before I learned of his dealings and wholesale manipulation of Winchester Hall and local elections. Things are different now. The longtime political boss has faded into the wallpaper — except for the Great Frederick Fair and the liquor board to which he was appointed as a political favor from ex-Gov. William Donald Schaefer. (They washed each other’s hands.)

 

With absolutely no state trooper experience, Chuck Jenkins was elected and re-elected the county’s chief law enforcement officer; his professional life was dedicated to the sheriff’s department. When it came time to stand up for himself and throwing his Smokey Bear in the ring, it hurt not a bit that he was president of Frederick Republican Central Committee. Since being sworn-in I’ve detected nothing that reeks of partisanship. And I’ve looked.

 

By a strange turn of history, The Frederick News-Post ran a front page story last Friday: “Should county absorb city police?”

 

Appearing before the Synergies Committee last week , which was named to save taxpayer dollars in branches of local governments, Sheriff Jenkins cited some $5 million that might be saved if he took over responsibility for patrolling Market and all municipal streets, together with everything that goes into “Protect and Serve” services.

 

The present city crisis stems from the Frederick’s Fraternal Order of Police. As I have written, the FOP is miffed that the mayor and Board of Aldermen didn’t raise property taxes to fund a raise for new cops that would incur future and ongoing costs for the municipal treasury. The union ignores the dreadful economic situation, here and nationally, as reflected in the skyrocketing number of poverty-stricken families. The cops simply don’t care.

 

As a downtown restaurant owner and the resident of a house within the city limits, Jennifer Dougherty butts in strongly and loudly, in favor of giving the police everything. Behind the scenes, the ex-mayor wrote several emails to her successor and the current board. As I wrote Friday, Ms. Dougherty deserves great credit for bringing in Chief Kim Dine. His experience on Washington Metropolitan Police Department and his no-nonsense approach to the job makes him a valuable asset to the city.

 

Unfortunately, Kim Dine’s ex-boss also poisoned his situation – and control – by giving the FOP fat contracts that provided staggering amounts of money. The very highest paid city employee last fiscal year, according to official 2010 records, was since-retired Lt. Steve Tuel ($148,592); the next, Gerald Kolbfleisch, the veteran director of finance ($126,592). Captains Kevin Grubb and the since-retired Jim Ledwell had higher salaries (c. $123,000) than their chief’s ($120,913). In fiscal 2011 that ended June 30, three sergeants were paid more than City Attorney Saundra Nichols($110,388). Police privates, the fetch-and-carry bodies, received checks ranging from $24,120.55 to $80,135.75. (That’s right. You read correctly, privates.)

 

Incidentally, Mayor Randy McClement received $90,000 and the five aldermen $25,000. As a retired police lieutenant, Kelly Russell is a double-dipper. It doesn’t seem right that she’s collecting twice from the city treasury. Not knowing the exact numbers, I feel comfortable guessing Alderwoman Russell is collecting the equivalent of Mayor McClement’s pay.

 

Former Lt. Pat O’Brien played a sorry fiddle lately. His recent Letter to the Editor claimed that during Ron Young’s terms in City Hall, police families resorted to food stamps to put meals on tables for their children. Presently a state senator, Mr. Young dismisses the allegation as “strictly hogwash.”

 

City Police Dilemma: Part Two continues Friday.

 



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