Dual Roles Allowed: Maryland Supreme Court Decision Clears Way For Councilman Aaron Penman's Return To Sheriff's Office


Harford County Councilman Aaron Penman will return to his role as a police sergeant. (Photo Credit: Harford County Sheriff's Office)

HARFORD COUNTY - Harford County Councilman Aaron Penman will return to his previous position as a police sergeant, the sheriff's office announced on Monday. The decision follows a Maryland Supreme Court ruling clarifying public employees' eligibility to serve on the Harford County Council.

"The taxpayers of Harford County have invested greatly in Sgt. Penman over the course of his career and returning his experience and skills to the Sheriff’s Office’s ranks is a benefit to public safety in our County," Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler said. 

Last year, Penman was elected as Councilman for Harford County District B and subsequently separated from the Sheriff's Office, owing to section 207 of the Harford County Charter. The relevant passage states that a "Council member shall not hold any other office of profit or employment in the government of the State of Maryland, Harford County, or any municipality within Harford County."

Section 207 was challenged in a series of court cases involving Harford County Councilman Jacob Bennett, who was initially barred from taking his seat after refusing to resign his position as a public school teacher.

In April, the Maryland Supreme Court decided that as a public school teacher, Bennett's employer is neither the state nor the county government, but rather the Harford County Board of Education, reversing a previous circuit court ruling that declared Bennett ineligible to serve as a councilman.

The Harford County Sheriff's office announced that following a review of the court's full written opinion released on August 30, Sheriff Gahler determined that Penman's separation from the agency was unnecessary, as the Sheriff's Office also falls outside the purview of State and County agencies.

"Acting in accordance with the Maryland Supreme Court's decision, I am pleased to announce Penman's rehiring effective the beginning of the next pay period at his previous rank of Sergeant," Sheriff Gahler said. "His 11-month separation makes him eligible for reinstatement as a certified police officer, and his experience and skills will benefit public safety in Harford County."

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