Fraternal Order of Police threatens to sue county over merit raises for sheriff’s employees

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – The Shelby County Fraternal Order of Police, on behalf of employees at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, threatened legal action Monday morning if the County Commission continues to refuse to acknowledge contractual merit raises for sheriff’s office employees.

Clay Hammac of the Shelby County Fraternal Order of Police and Sheriff Chris Curry both addressed the commission during its regular meeting at the County Administration Building.

“We are fully aware of the language used in the September 2010 Commission meeting, which, in summary, stated that by resolution, this commission would not recognize any increases in salaries and wages with respect to the operations of the Sheriff and Law Enforcement Personnel Board,” Hammac told commissioners. “We intend to bring to light that your passage of such a resolution contradicts the legislation that created the Law Enforcement Personnel Board.”

Hammac said the Shelby County Law Enforcement Personnel Board was created by an act of legislation in 1979 to implement a pay plan for all sheriff’s office employees, among other things.

“This commission does not have the legal authority to deny merit raises that have been approved by the Law Enforcement Personnel Board,” Hammac said.

Curry said employees of the sheriff’s office understand that he expects much from them.

“In return, they receive at a minimum the salaries, step raises and incentives mandated by the Law Enforcement Personnel Board,” Curry said. “That is the agreement or contract that we entered into when I offered them the job and they accepted it.

“They live up to their half of the agreement every day. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure they receive the pay and benefits they are lawfully entitled to.”

County Manager Alex Dudchock told commissioners that the resolution they adopted in their budget against the raises “was reviewed and approved by your county legal staff, period.”

Curry said he felt it was important to be present to show support for the Fraternal Order of Police and his employees it represents.

Commission Chairman Corley Ellis asked Curry if he could pay the merit raises and still stay within his budget. Curry said he could not.

“The current budget has been restricted so much it is impossible to do so,” Curry said.

Curry said his department is taking some major cuts.

“Some of them have already started,” he said, “and we’ve already met with individuals it’s going to affect.”

The sheriff’s office has stopped most expenses, Curry said.

“We’re trying to move our budget into one fund, just like your checking account,” he said. “Every last expenditure has got to be known in advance and approved or disapproved.”

Curry said it’s a “complex process.”

Ellis asked Curry if those cuts were being done to make money available for merit raises. Curry said they were not.

“That’s in an effort to simply operate with a balance this budget year,” he said.

For example, Curry said, if a camera at the jail goes out, money will be spent to fix it. But if a department car wrecks, it’s parked instead of fixed.

“We’re going to reach a point in time where we can’t pay the gasoline bill,” Curry said. “Reduction in services absolutely is going to happen.”