The only candidate for the newly appointed post of public safety officer for Chesapeake Beach and North Beach says he no longer wants the job, citing contract negotiations that have taken four months.
Patrick H. Nutter, a popular former Calvert County deputy sheriff who once patrolled the beach towns, was supposed to start the $60,000-a-year position in July. Complicated contract issues pushed the starting date back to at least December, so on Oct. 28 Nutter told Chesapeake Beach Mayor Gerald Donovan he could wait no longer.
"I would have been working with a six-month contract," said Nutter, currently the Calvert County zoning enforcement officer. "It was just too short a time."
The job generated controversy when it was created in April because the towns were considering only one candidate -- Nutter -- who was then mulling a run for sheriff. The position prompted criticism from some Town Council members who called it a political ruse set up by Donovan, an important Calvert Democrat, to eliminate a potential competitor for Sheriff John A. "Rodney" Bartlett Jr. (D), who ultimately lost the election.
Pat "Irish" Mahoney, the Chesapeake Beach Town Council member who was the most vocal critic of the position, said the job should now be eliminated.
"Let's save the taxpayers some money. Let's not spend any more money on this charade," Mahoney said.
Donovan, Bartlett, Nutter and North Beach Mayor Mark R. Frazer repeatedly insisted that the job's creation was driven by the rapidly growing towns' need for more police, not by politics.
The towns' current budgets include money to split the position's $90,000 start-up cost. Now, both mayors said, the job would be advertised to attract new candidates.
"We definitely need the position filled, regardless of who it is," Donovan said. "It will get filled one way or another."
The many contract issues that delayed Nutter's start on the job need to be addressed, Frazer said.
Officials said the responsibilities of the public safety officer would be similar to those proposed for Nutter. The officer would be a special deputy sheriff answering to the mayors, not the sheriff. The deputy would have arrest powers, carry a gun, enforce town building codes and zoning matters, and would be a liaison between the municipalities and the sheriff's office, officials said.
The special deputy status caused problems, though. For one, a special deputy could not be a political appointment who serves at the mayors' pleasure because state law protects police jobs.
Being a special deputy also posed problems for Nutter because he is 59, and the mandatory retirement age for deputies is 58. The local pension board could have made an exception for Nutter but decided not to, saying it had recently denied exceptions for another deputy.
But without special deputy status, the towns would have had to take out a massive insurance policy and, in effect, resurrect a joint police department that was disbanded in the 1980s.
Bartlett blamed the job's collapse on Nutter, saying he insisted on continuing retirement benefits he was already receiving.
"Pat wanted something for Pat," Bartlett said.
Nutter said the differences could have been worked out, though he said Bartlett did not return his phone calls.