Sussex County Delaware

Sheriff's Department,
Council at Odds

 
Sussex County Council ...

Disputes Arise Over
Pay Raises, Powers

By ROXANN MOORE
Special to Sussex County Online

GEORGETOWN -- "I am just trying to restore the power that belongs to the Sheriff's Department. I am not trying to increase it," Sussex County Sheriff Robert "Bob" Reed said after addressing Sussex County Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday, August 1, 2000.

Reed said that the sheriff's department is the "chief law enforcement" division in the county and feels the council is politically motivated to stop him from regaining that power.

Reed, who is a Republican, claims that the Democratic majority on council is trying to control the department through the budget.

However, the council denied those charges and Robert "Bob" Stickels, Sussex County Administrator, said that the council is obligated to the residents of Sussex County to operate within its budget.

Stickels and the members of county council disagreed with Reeds' accusations. Stickels said he told Reed he would need to present his pay raise increase and education budget requests to the council or it would not be included in the FY2001 budget.

Stickels went on to say that Reed had ample notification of the public hearing date. The budget was made public on May 16, 2000 and a public hearing was held seven weeks later on June 20, 2000.

Reed said he plans to continue to present his requests to the county council members and Stickels until they give his staff the pay raises.

Reed said he met with council in executive sessions to discuss his concerns on July 18 and July 25, 2000.

Reed said the council wants the Sheriff's Department to stop two programs, the "Safe Night Out for Seniors" where the sheriff's department patrols shopping areas, and the "File of Life Program", where the sheriff's department solicits businesses for financial contributions to provide emergency medical cards for residents of Sussex County to be used by emergency responders.

"We're not going to stop anyone from giving out the emergency cards. If he wants to do that he can," Lynn Rogers, president of the Sussex County Council, said. He added that no action has been taken on any of the comments made by Reed or Lt. J. Todd Mumford.

Reed also said that at a later date Stickels telephoned him to say the council was close to a vote during the executive session, but he would have to agree to remove the lights from the sheriff department's cars in exchange for the money.

Stickels said he told Reed that he was not permitted to have the lights on the Sheriff's cars and they would have to be removed. Stickels denied there was any deal involving the removal of the lights for the pay raises.

Todd Hallidy, the information officer from the Attorney General's Office, confirmed Stickels comments about the sheriff's vehicles' lights.

"The Attorney General, upon the request of a state legislator, previously issued a letter of opinion that a vehicle operated by a sheriff, or a deputy under a sheriff's authority, did not appear to qualify under the statute as one entitled to use red and blue emergency lights," Halliday said. "We know that information has been shared with Sussex County Council members.

"We are aware the Sheriff has not removed the lights from vehicles in service to him, and we are working with the Secretary of Public Safety to address the matter. The Public Safety Department has the authority to authorize emergency vehicles that can be equipped with flashing lights. Discussions with law enforcement, the Public Safety Department, and our office have been held as recently as this week. It is our hope we will resolve this matter cooperatively."

Reed maintains the sheriff's department actually has more authority than the state police. He said, "Until 1935, the Sheriff's Department was the premiere authority. Then the state police came in better trained."

He said he is not trying to take more authority, but is simply recovering the sheriff's rightful power.

Reed backed up his claim by citing Title 11, from which he quoted, "State police has the same authority as the sheriff's department."

Mumford addressed the council, hoping to get answers about the negotiations taking place between the council and Reed.

Mumford said the duties performed by the department members were dangerous. He said the deputies serve papers for the courts and enforce evictions and inventory possessions for sheriff sales, along with other activities. He said the deputies and sheriff are seldom welcome when performing these duties.

Mumford was hired in May, but Reed said Mumford knew what the pay was along with the benefits. He said he also tells prospective employees he is attempting to get pay increases.

In addition, Reed said he was not given proper notice on the budget hearings, which is when he should have submitted his pay raise and education budget request. He said he was in Kansas attending a Sheriff's convention.

Stickels added that he could not target Reed because he does not vote on the issues before the council.

The Sheriff's Department employed eight people, but is in danger of losing them because of the low wages, according to Reed. He said he wants to retain quality people but he can not as long as the council refuses to increase the pay.

Currently, the highest paid employee earns $25,750 a year, according to figures released by Reed. He would like to increase that to $30,000 a year.

The lowest wage is $18,100 a year, according to Reed, and he would like that raised to $23,160 a year.

Reed said the department's employees have do not have job security and can be replaced when a new sheriff is elected. Reed said some deputies are discussing unionizing for job security.

In other business, Council:
  • Accepted the withdrawal of Conditional Use Application Number 1340. The developers of Sea Chase ll have withdrawn their application until they can resolve road issues that arose with the project, according to Timothy Willard, attorney. Willard said in a letter to Lawrence Lank, Director of Planning and Zoning, that the developers want residents of Sea Chase l, the local community and Del DOT to assist with the process.

  • Was informed that the Property Tax billing has been completed and all have been sent out, according to David Baker, Director of Finance.

  • Allowed the engineering department to extend Dewey Beach Expansion after Russell Archut, assistant county engineer, explained the owners are planning for a future sub regional pump station.

  • Proclaimed Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2000, as Sussex County Safe Kids Day. Stickels urges all residents to promote and encourage safety in home, school, work and recreation.

  • Announced that Kay Dewson, district manager for the West Rehoboth Expansion of the Dewey Beach Sanitary Sewer District, will be recognized for her outstanding efforts and dedication in the field of Waste water treatment. She will be recognized during a ceremony on Aug. 9, 2000 at the Marriot's Hunt Valley Inn, Hunt Valley Maryland.

  • Announced that Del DOT will hold its Long Term Transportation Plan meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2000 at the Sussex County West Complex in Georgetown. It will begin at 5 p.m.

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