Sheriff picks up two union endorsements

… Deputies, correctional officers prefer Bane …

Monday October 18th 2010

BY KIRSTEN DIZE

Posted 10/06/10

Incumbent Harford County Sheriff L. Jesse Bane secured endorsements from the correctional officers and deputy sheriff’s unions this week.

Both Bane, and a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Jeff Gahler, met with the correctional officers union and the deputy sheriff’s union last week in a candidate forum setting.

The deputy sheriff’s union counted endorsement votes Tuesday, following the correctional union’s lead by endorsing Bane.

“Sheriff Bane was the overwhelming winner,” Don Gividen, president of the deputy sheriff’s union, said Tuesday evening shortly after the votes were counted.

There were 145 votes for Bane and 33 votes for Gahler, Gividen said.

Monday evening the president of the correctional officers union, Rick Hampton, notified Bane that he had secured the union’s endorsement.

“It means a lot to me, I would certainly want to know that the people who work for me are endorsing me,” Bane said Tuesday evening.

Bane said he appreciated the vote of confidence from the correctional officers and plans to continue the agency’s progress if he is reelected.

“I’m very grateful that I got their endorsement,” Bane said.

The deputies union vote tally was received too late Tuesday to contact either candidate for comment.

Earlier Tuesday, Gahler said the correctional officers vote was not a landslide and he feels there is still a call for new leadership, despite the union’s endorsement of the incumbent sheriff.

Hampton said there were 36 votes for Bane, 23 for Gahler.

That’s far below the estimated 100 correctional officers that Hampton said were union members Tuesday evening.

The deputy sheriff’s union has more members. According to the agency’s budget figures, the sheriff’s office has 292 sworn deputies. The deputies union also allows retired deputies with paid up dues to participate in its political endorsements.

Gahler said while Bane secured the endorsement of the correctional officers, the vote numbers indicate discontent with the incumbent sheriff’s leadership.

“A 30 percent return rate shows that everything is not peachy keen,” Gahler said. “That vote does not indicate a just perfect organization.”
Gahler was disappointed with the union’s decision, but he said also believes some votes may have been cast against him instead of voting against the officers’ current boss.

“I would like to have it, but I do think there is an element of fear there,” Gahler said of the endorsement.

The average inmate population of the Harford County Detention Center is 448, according to Lt. Jim Eyler with the sheriff’s office, and staffing at the detention center is a concern.

An addition to the detention center will increase the need for corrections officers.

The expansion, expected to conclude in January, will add 288 beds, bringing the detention center’s capacity to 762.

There is no specific completion date.

“Most of the outside construction is done, so they’re moving inside so they’re less susceptible to delays,” Eyler said last week.

Both unions asked Gahler questions about the role former chief deputy Howard Walter might play in his administration if he is elected. Walter was chief deputy under the two previous sheriffs, Joseph Meadows and R. Thomas Golding, and also served as warden at the detention center.

Walter, who retired before Bane became sheriff in 2006, did not have a good relationship with the deputy’s union leadership, sources have told The Aegis.

Gahler said he explained to both unions that, while Walter had been a great asset to his campaign, Walter has no interest in returning to the sheriff’s office.

“I don’t think I would have won the primary without his help and support,” Gahler said of Walter. “He has been a great asset to my campaign.”

Gahler said Walter’s knowledge of the sheriff’s office and experience with running a campaign have been invaluable, but he was adamant that Walter will not be involved in his administration.

“He will not be returning in any role,” Gahler said Tuesday.

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