Several employees from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) attended the Jackson County Commission meeting to express their displeasure with the way they have been compensated since the courthouse opened on May 1.
The commission agreed to give those employees administrative hazard pay for the weeks they worked when the courthouse reopened.
JCSO Chief Clerk Kim Holman spoke first at the commission meeting Monday afternoon. She said that she appreciated the pay they received during quarantine. She said the majority of their employees were on the front lines during quarantine, and they deserved the extra pay they received. She said that she completely understands the budget issues the commission has had, and she is not unsympathetic to that.
She said she is unsympathetic to is treating and or making allowances for only certain county offices. She said the sheriff’s office has always done what it has needed to with minimal resources.
“This pandemic and how it has been handled by the commission has brought to light a whole new prejudice to our employees that the majority of us cannot overlook,” said Holman.
Holman said when employees returned to the courthouse on May 1, a few offices were half-staffed. The revenue commissioner’s office, probate judge’s office and the commission office worked a shift where employees worked every other day but were paid for the full pay period.
She said employees were paid for 80 hours but only did 30 hours work. She said Sheriff’s Office employees were not offered this schedule nor any compensation for the off days afforded certain county employees. She said it was simply not fair, and if any reasonable compensation had been offered, she would not have been at the meeting saying that.
Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen credited Chairman Tim Guffey for coming up with a couple of solutions to compensate JCSO employees. The options were $100 hazard pay for every pay period or comp time.
Harnen said there were issues with comp time because of understaffing at the Sheriff’s Office. He said that he understands budget problems and appreciates the double pay they made the first six weeks of the stay at home order. Harnen said it is not right that other employees were getting to go home and getting paid the same as JCSO employees who were working full time.
Guffey said the reason for the two shifts was to make sure the courthouse could still operate. He said if one person in the tag office contracted COVID-19, they would lose the whole office for at least 15 days. He said other counties were doing a reimbursement of $50 per week for sheriff’s employees, and that is why he offered that to JCSO employees.
Guffey said after the marina fire and COVID-19, the county’s $1.4 million cash balance was gone, and he was not going to make any decisions without the commission voting on it.
District 1 Commissioner Danny Rich said the commission would treat everyone as fairly as possible and promised they would do everything they could to put everyone on an even scale.
District 2 Commissioner Jason Venable was not happy about the complaints made at the meeting. He said he was as angry as he has ever been at a commission meeting.
“We have bent over backwards for our employees,” said Venable. “We haven’t even had the opportunity to try and even things up, and we get talked about like we’ve taken something away. We’re doing the best we can for our employees and the citizens of this county. It’s impossible to make everything equal, but there’s a difference between equal and fair. It’s insulting the way you guys have come at us tonight.”
District 4 Commissioner Mike Sisk said he was sorry this had happened, and he did not know what was going on. He felt like there should have been a called meeting to discuss what was happening. He said JCSO employees had a legitimate concern.
The commission agreed to pay employees who worked full time during the last two weeks “administrative hazard pay” on top of their regular paycheck.
Guffey said the commission always intended to do something to help those employees.
“I think we’ve treated our employees very well. We’ve gone above and beyond because we have so much trouble retaining help. We’ve done things for our employees that the other 66 counties in Alabama didn’t do,” said Guffey. “To me it was a slap in the face and not giving us the benefit of the doubt that we weren’t going to continue to be good stewards and help them.”
Guffey said the commission did not meet earlier to discuss the issue because they did not know how long they would go without being fully staffed. Monday was the first day the courthouse was at full staff since it opened on May 1.