More than six dozen Harford County Sheriff’s Deputies received pay raises last month as part of a budget amendment agreed to by County Executive David Craig and the deputies’ union, negotiations Sheriff Jesse Bane now says he was not involved with and plans to revisit with Craig.
Under an amendment to the county’s operating budget passed in May, unranked deputies who have been with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office for more than 10 years received a six percent raise and a new title, currently being referred to internally as “senior deputy.”
The pay raises went into effect July 7 for approximately 70 deputies among the more than 500 employees of the agency, according to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Monica Worrell. The budget amendment provides for $382,690 to cover the raises.
However, the raises do not apply to corrections officers who have served a similar amount of time, nor the agency’s civilian employees, Bane said. The increase comes in a year which saw Craig revoke the second portion of a bonus for county employees, and in which the county’s budget contained no broad raises for most employees for a fifth straight year.
“I support the senior deputy plan but not at the expense of others,” Bane said Monday. The raises and new rank are “counter to the way I was raised in the community as a deputy.”
Kevin Thomas, president of the Harford County Deputy Sheriff’s Union, did not respond to requests for comment.
Bane said he had initially spoken with Craig to request raises for all personnel, plus a senior deputy classification for both law enforcement deputies and corrections officers.
But Bane claimed he did not learn that there had been an “senior deputy” amendment to the budget submitted by Craig, until he contacted a County Council member for confirmation. Furthermore, he said “innuendo” in the Sheriff’s Office pointed to him as the force behind the amendment, causing Bane to send an internal e-mail to staff saying he was not.
Bane told The Dagger that he was happy some people got raises, but believed the move would create a “firestorm in the agency.” He said he also warned union officials about the potential for public outcry.
“I have to look out for all my people,” he said. “It’s a morale issue.”
Bane declined to speculate why Craig offered the amendment without consulting him, but said he has waited for “the dust to settle” and would meet with Craig to look for savings in the current budget and pursue raises for next year.
By state law, the sheriff’s own salary is set in Annapolis based on an economic index. Bane claimed that each year Sheriff’s Office employees have not received a raise, he has given back his own increase, which last year amounted to $1,600 and went to support several grant programs.
Dion Guthrie, county councilman for District A, said Craig’s motive in brokering the raises directly with the deputies’ union was political.
“It’s fairly obvious,” he said. “Why would he [Craig] not go to the head of the department?”
Craig’s intentions, according to Guthrie, were to support Republican sheriff candidate and former Maryland State Police trooper Jeff Gahler by attempting to embarrass Bane.
Guthrie added that he also heard rumors that Bane knew about the raises and was “playing dumb,” but said he is convinced the sheriff was not aware of the negotiations at the time.
Though seeking raises for existing employees, Bane also said at several town hall meetings earlier this year that he hoped to hire additional deputies and corrections officers—but that no money existed to do so.
At a town hall meeting in Edgewood in March, Bane placed the first-year costs of training, equipping, and paying a new a law enforcement deputy, including benefits, at $150,000, and for a corrections officer at $137,000. Ideally, he said then, he would want to hire 28 new corrections officers and 137 new law enforcement recruits.
At the time, Bane nonetheless praised Craig, saying the county executive had worked closely with Bane and his agency.
“No complaints against the county executive and county council, they’ve been good to us,” he said. “[But] we are severely understaffed.”
Dagger reporter Cindy Mumby contributed to this story.