SNOW HILL — Although the Worcester County Sheriffs patrolling Seacrets this year will be in plain cloths they will be on the clock and providing both security and an extra set of eyes for possible DWIs.
Seacrets has employed off-duty sheriffs for more than a decade but this year the nightclub entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Worcester County Board of Commissioners similar to the deal struck last year between the County and the Casino at Ocean Downs for sheriff protection.
By having the sheriffs on the clock under the MOU both the officers and the county have better insulation against liability.
“We have liability now regardless if they’ve moonlighting or working on their own,” said County attorney Sonny Bloxom. “It’s [just] best to have the maximum amount of coverage.”
In order to take advantage of that coverage the sheriffs have to be on duty. Dale Smack, chief deputy for the Worcester County Sheriffs Department (WCSD), told the Commissioners that since the sheriffs’ pay will be classified as overtime and the officers will remain under the direction of the department, the on-duty liability coverage applies.
Bloxom, Smack and County Human Resources Director George Bradley assured the Commissioners that the $66 per-hour rate the County would charge Seacrets would more-than cover both the payroll and administrative expenses incurred. The amount was reached by averaging the highest per-hour rate with the lowest per-hour overtime rate and adding anticipated administrative expenses, essentially the same formula they used in determining the traffic control rates for the Casino at Ocean Downs.
“Actually, we make a little bit of money on it,” Bloxom said.
The Commissioners agreed in principle to the MOU but there was some debate about whether the deputies should be in uniform while on duty.
Commissioner Virgil Shockley held that it was important for the sheriffs to be dressed as such to add to the deterrent.
From Smack’s perspective, it was more important that the duties carry their weapons concealed under plainclothes so they wouldn’t have to worry about people sneaking up behind them and stealing their firearms.
“Don’t you think there is something to be said for a presence?” asked Commissioner Judy Boggs. Smack agreed that there was and said that there probably wouldn’t be too much pushback from the deputies if they had to wear their uniforms.
In their request to the County, Seacrets was explicit that it didn’t want the WCSD as “armed bouncers” but rather to act as guardians for the cash being taken in at the cover charge area and for later deliveries of that cash to more secure places. A deputy will also stay on to patrol the grounds overnight.
The letter also reminded the Commissioners that Seacrets keeps nearly 90 doormen on patrol throughout the building and parking lot as well as an EMT staff. The nightclub is also part of the regular duties of the Ocean City Police Department.
But Commissioner Madison Bunting wanted assurances that if the WCSD was on duty they do their best to fulfill their responsibilities.
“You’re not there as a moonlighter,” he told Smack. “You’re there as an employee of Worcester County.”
He clarified that the deputies should keep an eye out for possible inebriates leaving Seacrets and see if they get into the driver’s side of their car.
Although several commissioners argued that the MOU be redone to reflect that the WCSD personnel be in uniform, the measure to have them in plain clothes passed 4-3.