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Two St. Mary’s County commissioners objected Tuesday to adding $500,000 to the sheriff’s office retirement plan. Commissioner Dan Morris (R) said the money should be used it to provide equipment to deputies instead.

He said that some new deputies get training in St. Mary’s County and then leave for work elsewhere. Morris, a former law enforcement officer, also said several of them have been fired.

“Vacancies happen for a number of reasons,” said Brian Eley, civilian administrator for the sheriff’s office, such as retirement, injury, termination of employment and because “people make choices. They just don’t vacate here because they don’t like it,” he said.

Eley said firings are “not the main reason for vacancies.” Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) was not at the county commissioners meeting.

There are typically 10 deputy vacancies a year, Eley said, as new positions are funded and cadets move through the police academy. The office is preparing to hire seven new deputies this year.

Morris suggested moving the $500,000 in personnel savings from the sheriff’s office into a “public safety fund,” to provide equipment such as stun guns or bulletproof vests. After the meeting, he said, “I want them to have Tasers and bulletproof vests so they can live long enough to retire.”

Deputies who get their training and leave St. Mary’s County to work elsewhere should have to repay the county, he said.

“It would be nice to have money in reserves to deal with those public safety concerns,” said Commissioner Cindy Jones (R).

The commissioners and the sheriff disagreed earlier this year whether to fund stun guns from a drug forfeiture account or out of the sheriff’s general budget.

Putting unspent dollars in the sheriff’s retirement plan reduces future cost obligations, said Elaine Kramer, chief financial officer for St. Mary’s County government. “I think we would like ours to be less underfunded,” she said.

“I don’t think the retirement system is in bad shape at all,” Morris said.

“To hire someone and then fire someone, I have a big problem with that,” he said.

“I don’t think the sheriff’s office looks to hire people and fire them,” said Commission President Jack Russell (D).

Three of the commissioners — Russell, Larry Jarboe (R) and Todd Morgan (R) voted to move the money into the sheriff’s retirement plan.