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Sheriff: Staff shortfall creates OT
County chair studying ways to reduce $627,955 extra expense
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Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown

Understaffed in a growing community, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department maintains it must rely on overtime hours to provide vital services to county residents. However, Bulloch County Commissioners don’t want to raise taxes and question whether Sheriff Noel Brown could cut his overtime spending in order to hire more employees.

Brown counters that he can’t slash overtime without more help ready to take over the extra duties.

Reasons for overtime focus on the need for extra coverage during hurricanes, other storms and special events. However, out of the employees Brown supervises in the jail, sheriff’s office and courts, only three of the top 24 employees getting overtime are patrol deputies.

Eight of the ones getting the most overtime hours are jail employees. Five are court services employees and three are part of office administration.

The employee receiving the most overtime hours in fiscal year 2018 was a jail maintenance man, Andrew Nay, who collected a whopping 506 hours, resulting in $12,084 extra in his yearly paycheck total.

Brown said Nay is well worth the expense, and saves the county money on mechanical and maintenance costs. In fact, Brown says he can justify just about all the overtime, and explains what it is that these employees do during their on-the-clock hours.

 

The top 24 for overtime

Next in line on a list of the 24 employees who received the most overtime is James Bruner, court services, at 479 hours in one year ($10,959). Deputy Dakota Womack racked up 448 hours ($8,865). Court services deputy Waymon Lester gathered 436 hours ($11,057) and Capt. Todd Hutchens, investigator, was paid for 391 hours overtime in 2018 ($14,135).

Jail employee Michael McDaniel received $8.906 extra in his pay for 393 overtime hours. Patrol deputy Stephen Herndon got 376 hours ($8,410).

Crime Suppression Team Marcus Nessmith was paid 366 hours overtime at $11,462, but he is attached to a federal task force and the county is reimbursed for his overtime Brown said.

Aneshia Hill, court services, garnered 364 hours ($11,223); jailer Scott Schuyler received 346 hours ($9,382); and Jeannie “Tara” Stone, administrative assistant to the sheriff, was paid 333 hours overtime in 2018 (8,746).

Gregory Collins, who supervises many areas in the jail and communications, was paid 322 hours ($6,312): Investigator Walter Deal, 316 hours ($11,109); and Bobbie Beckum, another administrative assistant to Brown, was paid for 303 hours ($6,543).

Jail employee Tynka Gray received 299 hours ($5,947); Deputy Jimmy Billings, 271 hours ($9,625); Donte Lavont, jailer, 267 hours ($5,589); and court services deputy Cleveland White received 255 hours ($5,816).

At 252 hours overtime in 2018, jail employee Carmelita “Sissy” Carter was paid $6,592. Court services supervisor David Keith Stone (who is married to Jeannie “Tara” Stone) took home an extra $10,588 for 250 hours. Communication employee Jasmine Littles had 233 hours overtime ($4,868) while jailer Brianna Edwards got 180 hours ($4,476).

Another of Brown’s administrative assistants, Terry Harville, was paid $5,039 for an extra 177 hours overtime. Chief Deputy Bill Black collected 148 hours of overtime at $6,678.

The total of all overtime for the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, jail and court services in Fiscal Year 2018 was $627,955. The total payout for the employees with the top 24 highest number of overtime hours was $193, 008.

I can’t shut the office down while I wait to be given new positions. I need 16 deputies to be up to par. We asked for two. If I can get two a year, we can slowly reduce overtime.
Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown
Is there a solution?

Bulloch County Commission Chairman Roy Thompson said he studies the budget on a daily basis, trying to find ways to cut costs and taking a look at overtime in all departments, not just the Sheriff’s Office.

But with the sheriff getting 43 percent of the county budget, and having the largest amount of overtime of all departments, he can’t help but wonder whether there are areas to cut, he said.

Yes, there are, Brown said.

”We can absolutely reduce some overtime by hiring more personnel. We can also reduce overtime by placing our upper management personnel on fixed salaries.”

Plans to enact that policy are expected to begin next year. But Brown acknowledges there could be other ways to reduce the stunning amount of overtime his departments collect.

“I will certainly admit in some cases we do need to do a better job of distributing duties and assignments among our existing employees,” he said.

Thompson said he is approached often about county budget issues and the sheriff’s office overtime.

“I have to ask these questions for the citizens of Bulloch County,” he said. “I study overtime every pay period with all departments.”

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Bulloch County Commission Chairman Roy Thompson

He said he has in the past wondered whether “possibly overtime in the sheriff’s office is used to subsidize salaries.” But after reviewing Brown’s more thorough explanation of overtime, provided to the Statesboro Herald via email, he said “According to these answers I’ve been wrong. But is there anyone who works (under the sheriff) who doesn’t make overtime?”

He did question the overtime for office personnel. Brown said office workers are paid overtime when they accrue more than 80 hours in a two-week period; deputies and other certified employees start making overtime after 85 hours.

“Is there anyone who can go home at 5 o’clock without overtime?” Thompson asked.

He suggested Brown take half his overtime budget to hire more deputies. Brown said he can’t let go of the overtime until he gets additional deputies to handle the extra work. He said the sheriff’s office needs 16 more deputies in order to have an adequate staff for the size of Bulloch County.

The problem is, without raising taxes, the money just isn’t in the budget to handle new hires on top of the high overtime budgeted, Thompson said.

“It is difficult to say no when you know they need additional help,” he said.

 

Overtime explained

Brown outlined what each of the employees with the top 24 highest hours of overtime does during work hours.

Nay was recruited from jail security to take over maintenance.

“We were having to pay an exorbitant amount of money to contractors to repair aging equipment,” he said. “I knew Andy was an experienced maintenance person, so we asked him to take the job. The money we pay him in overtime is a lot less than what we would have to pay professional plumbers and auto mechanics.”

Nay “works late at night to keep the office up and running, during storms he makes sure radios, et cetera are working.”

An additional maintenance man would “absolutely be helpful,” he said. McDaniel and Schuyler also help with maintenance.

As for the patrol deputies’ and investigators’ overtime, that is self-explanatory, he said.

“I can’t shut the office down while I wait to be given new positions. I need 16 deputies to be up to par. We asked for two. If I can get two a year, we can slowly reduce overtime.”

Deputies Womack and Herndon likely racked up overtime because of field training for new deputies, which adds overtime hours, he said.

 Regarding court services. Brown changed transport officers from jailers to armed deputies. Bruner is a transport deputy who travels “across the state, and sometimes travels the night before to pick up inmates” for court appearances. He also helps in special events, Brown said.

White works in the court and often has to “stay late during jury deliberations; works during special events and is staged at the courthouse during severe weather events.”

Lester is one of two civil/warrants deputies who “must sometimes work overtime to deliver subpoenas, et cetera,” he said.

As far as the jailers go, “Employee attrition is the main reason for jail overtime. Many leave before the year is up, and training new officers takes overtime. We are hoping a new pay classification system helps us with retention.”

Jailers also work special events such as the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair, major hurricanes or storms.

Regarding the Fair, deputies are seen every night at the fairgrounds, directing traffic or patrolling the grounds. When asked whether the six-day event warranted so many deputies, as many are seen sitting outside the Child ID trailer each night, Brown responded curtly.

“I will decide how many deputies we need to keep those families safe at the fair,” he said. “On some nights there have been as many as 17,000 people there.”

The Statesboro Kiwanis Club pays half of the overtime costs, he added.

As for the deputies and other employees seen sitting at picnic tables during fair hours, “Deputies at the command post have (likely) just come in from directing traffic in the middle of Hwy. 67 in the heat for five or six hours while wearing body armor and duty gear.”

Others help guard gates or the cash office inside.

Brown did not offer any explanation of why the three administrative assistants, Harville, Stone and Beckum, received so much overtime except to say they “help out with the Child ID program and other events.”

Beckum is “custodian of all inmate records, booking, medical criminal history, and court actions.”

Collins has a great deal of responsibility, Brown said. He supervises communications, is the coordinator of GCIC (Georgia Crime Information Center) records and also works special detail. “I have asked for an extra deputy to alleviate this in the 2019 budget request.”

Littles works mainly in communications but “fills in as jail deputy. And Deal is “our most experienced investigator.”

Overtime for Black, Hutchens and Stone “will change when new pay scale – fixed salary for captains and above – comes in January,” he said. As chief deputy, Black is second in command and handles many duties including issuing daily media releases.

Hutchens, a captain in investigations, handles the sex offender registry, press releases and other tasks on top of investigative duties.

Billings is the DARE officer, oversees the school resource officers, and handles after hours school sports security. Levant, Gray and Edwards get overtime in the jail by manning posts that must be filled, he said.

 Carter is responsible for logging inmate property and filling in when the jail staff is short-handed.

 

Catch 22

Brown doesn’t foresee expenses and the need for either overtime or more employees going away.

“Call volume is going up, and the jail population expected to go up,” he said.

The attention to the sheriff’s office overtime “seems to acknowledge what I have known for the last 20 years,” he said. “The sheriff’s office is woefully understaffed when you consider the geographical size and total population of our county.”

He said people reading about the overtime will not fully understand how the overtime is justified.

“Simply publishing the overtime hours of the sheriff’s office does not answer how some of that overtime is justified, or reimbursed, or examine why the sheriff’s office manpower levels are not growing as this county grows.”

Thompson is still pondering solutions. Bulloch County commissioners and County Manager Tom Couch have worked diligently over the years to avoid raising taxes, he said, but in order to solve the issues and fill needs, the money must come from somewhere.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I appreciate the job they are doing. I do understand overtime, but (the current amount of overtime) is a lot of overtime. I’m trying to do what I was elected to do. I appreciate (Brown’s) explanations, but I’m looking at all the budget and trying to find a way not to raise taxes.”

Commissioners Curt Deal, Walter Gibson and Jappy Stringer all said they respect what the sheriff does, and also understand the need to shave overtime as well as find ways to fund more deputies.

“I am waiting to see how we get this under control,” Stringer said. “He (Brown) has only been in office a year and a half so it will take time to straighten this out.”

 

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.