Acknowledging that he appreciated a pay raise of 33 percent after voters approved a one cent sales tax increase for the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy C.J. Youngs said the Fremont County Commissioners acted unethically by adopting a pay plan that was contrary to what Youngs claimed was previously promised. Youngs argued in an appearance before the Commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting that he should have gotten another raise for his 10 year anniversary last March but did not because the Board of Commissioners adopted an alternate pay plan to give pay step increases after 4, 8, and 12 years of service instead of increases at 4, 7, 10, 15, and 20 years of service.
Commission Chairman Ed Norden told Youngs that when the Board adopts a pay plan it is for all county employees. Norden said the county is not about to set up a different pay plan for the Sheriff’s Department or any other county department. He said a county pay plan will treat all employees the same. Youngs accused the Commissioners of lying to the Sheriff, deputies, and the voters. He said it was unethical in his view for the Board to start charging the Sheriff for his own utilities and redistributing that money among other departments for personnel costs. By doing so Youngs charged that the Commissioners removed the Sheriff’s pay scale and balanced the budget on the backs of deputies.
Those allegations brought a quick retort from Commissioner Norden who explained to Youngs that if he had done his research he would have found that for many years the county’s General Fund had paid the costs of the Sheriff’s utilities, maintenance, and supplies. Norden said there were several years when the Sheriff operated with budget shortfalls and it was a case of the Commissioners either budgeting to pay the Sheriff’s utility and maintenance costs each year or having to cover those budget shortfalls from the General Fund at year’s end.
Norden continued to point out to Youngs that the 4-8-12 years of service pay plan the Board adopted was done so because “this Board of Commissioners acted responsibly to the voters by looking into the future and the county did not have the dollars to support the pay plan Youngs claimed was promised to deputies”. Norden said those benchmarks were established for all employees and by not singling out one group of employees versus another. Norden concluded, “We have a fiduciary responsibility to every employee and every taxpayer in this county as to how we handle those dollars”.
District 2 Commissioner Bell took particular exception to the allegations charged by Youngs. Bell told Youngs, “I do not appreciate the opinion that we lied to anyone or that we lack transparency. I believe this Board has been more transparent, more honest, and more open with the public and our employees than any other board in recent history.”
Russ Hickman, Regional President of the Fraternal Order of Police, spoke in support of Youngs’ issue saying he represents several deputies who share the same concerns about the county’s pay plan for deputies. Hickman said whatever the Commissioners did to hold back pay from the deputies should be discussed with them. Commissioner Norden told Hickman that protocol would require him to first address his concerns with Sheriff Beicker regarding pay and personnel and then if the Sheriff shares those concerns he could bring them to the Board. Hickman said he wants to see what the Commissioners are going to do before deciding if he wants to pursue the issue from a legal point of view.
Reacting to Hickman’s allegation that the Board of Commissioners are holding back a pay increase for the Sheriff’s deputies, Commissioner Bell told Hickman, “I would submit that giving anyone a 33 percent pay increase, we are not holding anything back”.