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Published: Friday, 4/8/2005

Sheriff gets more funds to add staff, cut overtime

BY DALE EMcH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

David Rayman works as a counselor to inmates at the Lucas County jail.

Sometimes he works as a guard. Other times, he escorts prisoners to court.

In fact, Mr. Rayman seemed to do little but work last year, which explains why he was able to rack up nearly $82,000 in overtime on top of his $41,000 annual salary.

Mr. Rayman was only being industrious, but the county commissioners are pointing to his hefty checks and the $2.6 million Sheriff James Telb paid in overtime last year as a drain on the county's general operating fund.

To try to cut down on overtime, they gave the sheriff a $1.3 million bump in his budget for this year, bringing it to $34.1 million.

The extra money is expected to be used to hire more staff so that overtime can be trimmed.

"At some point, the taxpayers are better off when we hire new employees even when we're trying to keep costs down," said Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the commissioners. "When you're paying to the tune of $80,000, you wonder how that decision made sense."

Sheriff Telb said he could have a training class of about 30 people assembled sometime in May. After that, it will take about six weeks for the new employees to be worked into the schedule.

He said the addition of new people may mean less overtime, but it will add other expenses, such as benefits.

"It will stop some of the massive overtime checks, but it won't stop all of the overtime," Sheriff Telb said. "We're 24/7, and we're going to be dealing, probably starting in June, with vacation time starting up. It's the nature of the business, overtime."

Mr. Rayman is a forensic counselor who works primarily with inmates when they first come to the jail, said Rick Keller, jail administrator.

Mr. Keller said Mr. Rayman, who's also a deputy, has worked for the sheriff's office about 20 years, so his seniority allows him to have priority for many overtime shifts around the jail.

He's one of 14 sheriff's office employees who were paid more than $25,000 in overtime in 2004.

Mr. Rayman worked 2,775 hours in overtime last year. That's on top of the 2,080 hours that he and most county employees work in a year for non-overtime shifts. This year, he's already been paid $23,883 in overtime.

Mr. Rayman couldn't be reached for comment.

Commissioner Maggie Thurber said she doesn't understand why a new class of employees hasn't been hired to cut down on overtime in the sheriff's office.

"I have not been convinced that the sheriff is doing the best job possible managing his staff and his resources," she said. "There are things he could do that he chooses not to do because it's easier to just pay the overtime."

Sheriff Telb disputes that contention. He said he's always going to need overtime because some of his 483 employees will be on leaves for disability or for family reasons.

In years past, his administrators also have attributed overtime problems to sick-time abuse by employees.

Three years ago, he said he thought cutting overtime to about $2 million a year would be an obtainable goal. But in 2003, overtime reached $2.3 million. In 2004, it was $2.6 million.

So far this year, $674,000 in overtime has been paid.

Commissioner Pete Gerken also is troubled by the amount of overtime payments at the sheriff's office.

He wondered who was watching the "financial picture" for the sheriff, and said commissioners' office employees might be able to provide some budgeting help as they did last year.

"I respect the sheriff's position as an elected official to handle his own affairs," Mr. Gerken said. "But we're in an era of cooperation among elected officials in the county. My goal is to sit down with him and say, 'Jim, it does raise a concern with the public when one person gets $80,000 in overtime. How can we work with you to control this?' "

Contact Dale Emch at:

daleemch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6061.



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