Harford County Council Approves $7M Fund Transfer Amid Controversy; Investigation Requested By Council Member


The Harford County Council Meeting Building (Credit: Van Fisher/Patch)

HARFORD COUNTY - A Harford County bill permitting the transfer of $7 million from the county's general fund to its Emergency Services department passed at the most recent county council session. But, it also prompted one council member to call for an investigation.

The controversial bill will facilitate hiring new EMTs and paramedic personnel and purchasing new ambulances and medicines. However, Council member Aaron Penman representing District B voiced his concern over an audit report revealing that the allocated amount was already transferred on May 2, before the council's approval.

The county's regulations specify that such inter-agency transfers within the same fund of the current expense budget can only occur in the last quarter of the fiscal year and must be recommended by the County Executive and approved by the council.

Penman's office offered a timeline of the fund transfer events, indicating that they interacted with County Treasurer Robert Sandlass on May 23, which led to the funds being returned to the general fund the same day. Penman shared a part of Sandlass' memo to the council in which he apologized for the premature transfer and stated that the money should have been moved only after the supplemental appropriation had received the council's approval.

Following these events, Penman said that a possible violation of the county charter had been submitted to the relevant state and local authorities for examination. While he fully supported the emergency medical services during the Tuesday council session, Penman abstained from the vote due to the perceived charter violation.

Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly has maintained that the transfer was essential to fund additional ambulance staff and equipment sufficiently and that it wasn't an attempt to alter the Emergency Services department's legal appropriation or override the County Council's authority.

During Tuesday's session, County Attorney Jefferson Blomquist echoed Cassilly's stance, denying any misappropriation of funds and welcoming any investigation, as he maintained that no charter violation had occurred.

Council Member Jacob Bennett backed the fund's transfer to the Emergency Services Department but expressed his displeasure over how the process was executed.

The bill was approved with six council members voting in favor and Penman abstaining.

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