Sheriff’s office pay increases questioned

December 15, 2012

Tax Assessor-Collector Teresa McCoy believes commissioners opened the door for violations of the county’s step pay plan when they gave raises to deputies and jailers at the start of the new fiscal year. But members of the Commissioners Court believe they closed the door on high turnover that costs the county money.

Respectful sparring occurred between McCoy and commissioners Tuesday during the regular meeting of the Commissioners Court. McCoy was asking for modest raises for two employees that she said took on extra duties after she reopened the satellite office in Acton.

The court denied her request.

It was the last official vote of outgoing commissioners Mike Sympson and Leonard Heathington. Both were defeated for re-election. Sympson made the motion to deny McCoy, and Heathington seconded the motion.

Sympson said that approving McCoy’s request could result in the court having “132 employees lined up to speak.”

“It’s not within the policy of the step plan and, in fact, would throw the step plan out of whack,” he said.

McCoy told the commissioners that within the past three months, there had been “lots of raises approved that clearly were not within policy – so you’ve already opened that box.”

The day after the meeting, McCoy told the Hood County News that commissioners had been well aware of what she was trying to accomplish on behalf of two of her employees because she had emailed each of them about it, and asked that they let her know if they had any questions.

None of them replied, she said.

“I really don’t think I asked for them to break policy by doing what I was asking for, because the policy allows for promotions,” McCoy said. “They’re saying it has to be done at the beginning of the budget year, but the step plan policy doesn’t say that.”

On Wednesday, Commissioners Dick Roan and Steve Berry, as well as County Judge Darrell Cockerham, explained that the increases that took effect Oct. 1 for 32 jailers and 18 patrol deputies were to raise the base pay for positions that have the highest turnover.

It has long been an issue that surrounding counties – and even the Granbury Police Department – pay several thousand dollars more for their starting positions than similar positions at the Hood County Sheriff’s Office.

“We had their base (pay) raised in order to make us competitive with areas around us,” Roan said. He added that granting McCoy’s request would “completely throw the step plan out of kilter and would create chaos.”

Cockerham said that Sheriff Roger Deeds is “constantly in training mode” because of new employees leaving for better-paying jobs.

Berry said that the starting pay for patrol deputies was raised from $30,900 to $31,209. Starting pay for deputies in Parker County, he said, is $41,000 and, at the Granbury P.D., it’s $40,000.

McCoy said that the raises she wanted to give the female employees would have totalled – for the two of them combined – a little over $2,000. She said that she has saved money in her office by leaving a full-time position worth $27,000 unfilled, getting by with occasional temporary help.

“I wasn’t asking for much,” she said. “I asked for something that is not clearly defined by policy, and they tell me no, you can’t do that because it breaks policy.”

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