Calls To Pass A Bill To Impact Sheriffs In Maryland Came Before A Frederick County Legislative Town Hall

The legislation would remove sheriffs who are convicted of criminal offenses.

Frederick, Md (KM) There wasn’t a large crowd at Thursday night’s legislative town hall at Winchester Hall. But citizens who testified called  for the Frederick County Delegation to support a bill concerning local sheriffs. “We believe that there is a need to change state law so that county sheriffs who are found to be in violation of ethics or statues in their official capacity can be held accountable, and, if necessary, removed from office,” said Dee Raven.

She said this is not about incumbent Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins who has been indicted for conspiracy and making false statement to illegally obtain machine guns. Jenkins had pleaded not guilty to the charges. “The problems of county sheriffs who commit unethical or unlawful actions have come up in other counties including Montgomery County, and I believe Harford County. Because sheriffs are state employees and cannot be removed from office except by local elections,”: Raven said.

Raven urged all members of the Frederick County Legislative Delegation to Annapolis to support the bill which is currently being drafted. “We understand that Senator Karen Lewis Young and Delegate Kris Fair have spoken with the chairs of the Senate and House of Delegates judicial committees,” she said. “Legislation is being formulated that would relieve a sheriff from his or her office when found in neglect or inability to carry out their duties due to a conviction.”

She also said it’s time “to change the Constitution of Maryland so that county sheriffs are not employees of the state. But are local law enforcement officials elected and paid by the people, and subject to recall by the people for just cause.”

Also speaking in support was Milton Hallin from Urbana. “The seriousness of the charges against Sheriff Jenkins in particular mean that there has to be some mechanism to remove from him duty while the case is pending,” he said. “As a matter of fairness, if he’s not convicted, then he can go back to doing what he was elected to do, much as I don’t like it,”: he said.

After he was indicted in April, Jenkins took a leave of absence, but remained actively involved with the operations of the Sheriff’s Office. He returned  to duty full time in August.

During the town hall, County Executive Jessica Fitzwater discussed her priories for the upcoming 2024 Maryland General Assembly. She  says she would support a bill to make changes to the Historic Preservation Tax Credit which was established by state code. Fitzwater says she wants to strike the existing state law, and establish an updated program under the County Code. It would expand eligibility for the historic preservation tax credit to more properties than under current law.

Another  bill would help keep fire fighters safe. It would require Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing to meet  specific safety and performance standards. CSST is used to deliver propane and natural gas, and has been connected to several lethal fires, including one in  2021 in Frederick County which took the life of Battalion Chief Joshua Laird. who was battling a house fire at the time.

A third bill would set up a task force to study the growing need of para-transit  services and make recommendations. Fitzwater says para-transit, which provides door to door demand service for people who are unable to use public transit or drive,  to get to medical appointments’  She say the State providers some funding for this program, but it has been flat for the past 16 years.

This legislative package will be presented to the County Council, and then to the Delegation. The 2024 General Assembly begins its 90-day session on January 10th.

By Kevin McManus