News Article Details

County; to seek justice grant; Council passes resolution, funds would help bolster drug courts, mental health services and aid juveniles

Maryland Gazette - 9/20/2017

Anne Arundel County Council passed a resolution Monday night that allows the county to seek a U.S. Justice Department Grant.

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant would award the county $164,273, which would be used by the county to bolster drug courts, mental health services and aid juveniles within the U.S. Justice Department system. It doesn't require any matching funds.

The resolution Monday was required by the County Council for the county government to submit the application for the grant. It was passed in a 4-3 vote with County Councilmen Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis; Pete Smith, D-Severn; Derek Fink, R-Pasadena; and Andrew Pruski, D-Gambrills, voting yes. County council chairman John Grasso, R-Glen Burnie; Michael Peroutka, R-Millersville; and Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, voted no.

Peroutka's decision to vote against the bill hinged on two facets: Peroutka doesn't believe the federal government has the money and new requirements from President Trump's administration could infringe on the liberties of county residents.

He said he supports the drug courts and believes the county should pay for them itself.

"It is morally wrong (to) make an agreement where we are trading the civil rights of people in our county to run the drug courts," Peroutka said before his vote.

There has been some controversy surrounding the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants after the U.S. Justice Department implemented new requirements that local governments certify they comply with 8 U.S.C Section 1373. This is a federal statute that prohibits state and local government from restricting communication between county officials and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to a fiscal note attached to the resolution.

The federal government also required the grant recipients to allow homeland security officials into any detention facility to meet with an immigrant and inquire about immigration status. And at the request of homeland security the county must give 48-hour notice of release date and time of an immigrant so that homeland security could take custody of the individual, according to the resolution's fiscal note.

County officials said the county doesn't have any laws at odds with section 1373.

The legal requirement was implemented by Trump's administration as part of a concentrated effort by federal officials to crack down on undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities. Recently a Chicago judge issued a nationwide injunction on the requirements that would allow homeland security officials open access to detention centers and the 48-hour notice on the release of immigrants.

Sanctuary cities have implemented laws that aim to limit cooperation with immigration authorities. In a memo, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defined sanctuary cities as those explicitly at odds with section 1373.

"So-called 'sanctuary' policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes," Sessions said in the memo. "These policies also encourage illegal immigration and even human trafficking by perpetuating the lie that in certain cities, illegal aliens can live outside the law."

In other business, the County Council passed a resolution requesting the Personnel Board study and recommend a new salary for the county executive for the term starting in 2018. The council has the power to increase the executive's pay but must do so before the 2018 election or the executive salary would stay at its 2014 level.

Council also introduced several pieces of legislation.

The county executive's office requested legislation moving $68,100 from the Anne Arundel County Police Department to the Office of the County Executive. County officials said this money will be used to pay the salary of Derek Matthews, the county's minority outreach division leader. Matthews is currently part-time and will be moved to full-time with a salary of $90,000.

Matthews is spearheading the county's anti-racism initiative, Anne Arundel United. County Executive Steve Schuh and Smith have teamed up as the organization's ambassadors.

Walker introduced legislation that would offer Anne Arundel County public safety officers property tax credits on their homes. The credit is not to exceed $2,500.

During public comments, some county residents continued their push against Peroutka and his former involvement with The League of the South, a secessionist organization labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Peroutka did not respond to the citizens during public comments. He has denounced recent racist comments by the organization's founder and president, Michael Hill.

Annapolis resident Peter Cane called again for Peroutka's resignation while referencing the county's new anti-racism initiative.

"In the spirit of this program this council should pass a resolution for the resignation of Michael Peroutka," Cane said.

Credit: By Chase Cook - ccook@capgaznews.com

 
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