Asst. Sheriff Loses Temper at Budget Meeting; Chides Commissioners

"Your job is to fund the agencies of this county … You don't know anything about the sheriff's office or how to run it."
Maj. John Horne
"You have to watch taxpayer money. I don't believe it's micromanagement at all."
Commissioner John O'Connor
A transcript of John Horne's remarks can be found at the bottom of this story.

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (March 17, 2016)—Tempers flared and nerves frayed at a budget work session of the Commissioners of St. Mary's County on Tuesday, March 15, when Maj. John Horne, the assistant sheriff, publicly castigated several of the commissioners whom he accused of trying to micromanage the agency through constant wrangling over Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron's proposed budget.

"Your job is to fund the agencies of this county," Horne said after getting up suddenly during the session to speak at the microphone. "For you to tell the sheriff how to run his agency is absolutely ridiculous."

Horne directed most of his ire for Commissioners John O'Connor and Mike Hewitt who both made several suggestions about how to deal with Cameron's $39 million proposal.

Hewitt was concerned that the sheriff's office continually sends salary money back to the county each year because it cannot fill all its vacancies; he said he saw little reason to increase the funding over last year's allotment while O'Connor said he approved of flat funding the agency until it was able to fill vacant spots for patrol deputies.

"You don't know anything about the sheriff's office or how to run it," Horne said.

"You're not helping your cause," Hewitt said.

"No, you're not," O'Connor agreed.

Horne left the meeting before it concluded, visibly upset.

Cameron did not stop Horne while he was making his impromptu comments but did say Horne's comments were born out of a frustration over attempts to micromanage the agency.

Cameron said he believed O'Connor was trying to direct the agency's course on several things, including the fleet of patrol cars and what type they would be, as one example.

"He was trying to direct me and that's not his job," Cameron said. "It was clearly his aim to manage through the budget."

Cameron said, however that he would review the video record of Horne's comments to evaluate whether they were within the bounds of the agency's policy of conduct.

Commissioner Tom Jarboe said commissioners had to be careful not to become too involved in the day-to-day operations of departments but to make sure that overall the county was moving in the right direction.

"What they put in the [sheriff's budget] were real requirements," Jarboe said. "They're not fudging anything.

"Whether police cars are marked or not, that's not our call."

It was a tense budget work session all around that day as commissioners signaled that they could only commit to funding the board of education at maintenance of effort levels, which means just $5 million more than last year's appropriation, said Commissioner Todd Morgan.

The commissioners' increase in revenue was just $3.5 million this year, he said.

"We know there's going to be a deficit, we just don't know how big it's going to be," Morgan said Wednesday. "We just have to wait next week to see."

O'Connor denied allegations of trying to micromanage the sheriff's office in a later interview, saying that as a commissioner he had a right and a duty to look through all budgets to ensure tax payer money was being well spent.

He said he was "shocked and dismayed at [Horne's] unprofessionalism."

"You have to watch tax payer money," O'Connor said. "I don't believe it's micromanagement at all."

Transcript of John Horne's Remarks

(Prepared by Staff)

Horne: Uh, excuse me, but I've been sitting back there for the last 2, almost 2 hours now listening to this and I'm not the political person here, the sheriff is.

Commissioner ?: What's your name, Sir?

Horne: Major Horne. I'm the assistant sheriff for St. Mary's County.

You know what, we go through this every single year when it comes to the budget and I appreciate what you guys have to do. Your job is elected commissioners and your job is to fund the agencies within this county to operate successfully. Now, I agree with Commissioner Morgan, Commissioner Hewitt when they talk about coming up with a number for the Sheriff and let him manage the agency. That's what the citizens of St. Mary's County elected him to do; not you Commissioner O'Connor, okay? So, for you to tell the Sheriff or anybody else in here what to do with Sheriff's office assets is absolutely ridiculous and it's a waste ... you talk about wasting manpower, time and and assets, that's what we're doing right now, and Sheriff I apologize. I'm not trying to be rude to anyone in here, but this is absolutely ridiculous!

Now, the sheriff is an extremely competent individual who's been reelected now three times to manage the law enforcement in this county and you're exactly right commissioner Morgan. You talk about, talk about micromanagement ... first of all, you don't know anything there is to know about law enforcement Commissioner O'Connor. So, let the people that know about it do it!

(one person claps lightly 3 times. No other noise from the gallery can be heard)

Anybody have any questions for me, I'll be glad to answer them if I can.

Commissioner Hewitt: You're not helping your cause, sir.

Commissioner O'Connor: Yeah, definately not.

Horne: It doesn't matter, you know what, you don't know anything about sheriff's office or how to run the agency, so you let us do that, okay? Your job as an elected official is to apply the funding for the sheriff's office in order for him to do his job. Okay?

Commissioner Hewitt, I get it. I understand with the whole returning money every year. I absolutely understand that. But give the sheriff a figure and let him manage the Sheriff's office which is what he was elected to do by the way by the people of this county. Thank you.

(Sheriff Cameron, who sat quietly through the entire exchange, is seated on the table at left with his back to the camera.)

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