Questions and Answers from Facebook Blog about LCSO Salaries and Budget
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
I was asked several questions through someone's personal Facebook blog. They are good questions and I thought it would be good to have the questions/answers here on my campaign page. My answers to these questions are listed in the comments section of this post. The questions are copied from the blog and I haven't made any changes to them.
I would like to see a candidate who 1) Compensates deputies fairly. Although starting pay was finally raised after many years to be commensurate with the PD, deputies still do not get compensated for specialties, physical fitness, or being on call (which I'm not sure how that's even legal). Moreover deputies work standard 43 hour weeks rather than 40. 2) Utilizes money provided to the department rather than turn it back to the commissioners every year to secure a future job. Potential benefits from this are point 1 above. 3) After deputies are being paid fairly they hire to retire and not condone negligent receuiting or retention. Supposedly, commissioners are on record somewhere stating they get their money's worth out of a deputy if they get just two years out of him/her. This is entirely the incorrect mindset to have and leads to the high attrition rate seen in the SO for so many years. This leads to a cutthroat environment which breads corrupt persons being in positions of leadership (who will throw any deputy under the bus to save their own skin) and retaining poor performers. This, in turn, also adds to the high turnover. Pizza parties only further moral so far. When people are compensated fairly and treated with respect, they stick around. When they stick around, you are fully staffed. When you're fully staffed, you have less calls per deputy. Qhen you have less calls per deputy, they can focus more on calls. When you focus more on one call, you solve more crimes. When you solve more crimes, the community is thus safer.
The following are my answers to the questions.
Hello everyone, I welcome the opportunity to be a part of this discussion forum regarding the 2022 Sheriff’s race. To answer the first question presented to this discussion group, these are my thoughts about the questions asked.
1. Regarding the lack of raises for Sheriff’s Department employees, you should know that no county employee, regardless of the department they work in, have received raises during that time. When raises are considered by the county commissioners, it is based primarily on the availability of tax revenue to support raises; in the matter of the Sheriff’s Department specifically, it is also based on a salary survey conducted by the human resources department. Although I would love to have pay increases for all Sheriff’s Department employees, all other county agencies need to be considered as well. Public safety departments such as Public Works and Emergency Management are just as necessary and important as the Sheriff’s Department, not to mention all of the departments within county government that are necessary for the community to function. Although I believe that the staff of the Sheriff’s Department are deserving of pay raises as well as all other county entities, it is impractical to believe that the Laramie County Sheriff can wave a magic wand and tell the county commissioners that the Sheriff’s Department staff are going to get a raise over everybody else. The county commissioners by statute are entrusted with running the county as a whole and the Sheriff’s Department is just one agency within this governmental structure. The county commissioners are entrusted with the Laramie County budget which affects each and every agency. The threats by other candidates to force or pressure the county commissioners is not practical nor does it create any positive solutions. Only through constructive dialogue and providing commissioners with necessary information can prudent decisions and positive working relationships be obtained. I have worked with these commissioners for many years, and I have a great working relationship. I feel that through positive dialogue I can work with them to increase the staffing and wages of the department within the constraints of the available county budget. In regards to the question on the 43-hour work week the Sheriff’s Department utilizes for sworn personnel, I have never been a fan of it. Although it is allowed through the Fair Labor Standards Act, I feel that it is squeezing more out of the staff and not compensating them appropriately. This is another item that I will be working with the commissioners once I am elected as Sheriff.
2. In regards to the Sheriff’s Department returning monies to the general fund each year, there are reasons for this. The Laramie County Sheriff’s Department is the single largest department within the county government system. We also have several buildings that we have to maintain. Additional monies are built into the budget each year to ensure that should something catastrophic happen, such as a sharp increase in fuel costs, we have the funds to be able to ride through it without having to go back to the commissioners and ask for additional funding. Other things like major mechanical issues within the buildings that the Sheriff’s Department maintains also account for a large portion of the additional funds allocated to the department each year. These funds cannot be utilized to give raises or bonuses to the staff and unused monies are returned to the general fund. However, since taking over as captain in the detention facility, I have noticed several areas that need attention and will be utilizing some of the overages to make repairs on each of the buildings, the main jail and the Juvenile Services Center. Laramie County Sheriff’s Department, through grants and other funding sources, ensure that the deputies are outfitted with the best equipment available; as captain I have been implementing cutting edge equipment and computer programs to more effectively manage the jail and streamlined processes to take some of the pressure off of the deputies and staff. As a steward of one of the largest budgets in the county, I ensure that I am utilizing all of my options available such as grants and 5th and 6th penny funding streams first before utilizing budgeted county funds. Employee compensation is a separate line within the county budget, and the wages for all departments are set by the human resources department and authorized by the county commissioners. No elected official or department head within the county government can arbitrarily move money into those line items and give raises or bonuses. If for some reason during a budget year, an additional position needs to be created, or changes in wages are determined to be necessary, the county commissioners have to approve a standalone budget amendment for the specific request. The other portion of compensation, besides the base rate of pay, is merit compensation which is also set by the human resources department and authorized by the county commissioners based on the availability of county funds to support raises. Once this compensation is approved, it is set and considered an annual expenditure increase. When bonuses are given to the county employees, it is done across the board and not just for one specific agency.
3. The Sheriff’s Department works extremely hard to ensure that we are hiring the best possible employees and that we do all that we can to retain them. When I took over the captain’s position in the detention center, we were losing approximately one deputy per month due to the severe morale issues. Since then, I have reduced turnover by half and continue to make gains. Through positive interactions with the staff, simple things like a positive word of the day or inspirational quotes sent to the staff each week, lets them know that I truly care about their well-being. The other candidates may claim that the backbone of the department is broken, but as in any organization, it is unrealistic to believe that you can make everyone happy with every decision. The staff of the Sheriff’s Department has had to live through the last two years of Covid which has taken its toll due to modifications of procedures to ensure safety of not only the staff but the inmates and the public. Having staff call out due to contracting Covid and then having to call in additional staff to cover those empty slots has caused a significant strain on the deputies. Covid is not only a living organism that impacts the body, it is a living organism that impacts society at large and has been very impactful on the public safety sector to include law enforcement, fire, EMS and hospitals. Throughout this pandemic, as things evolve, modifications have had to be made and will continue to be made to ensure that we keep pace with the ever-changing realities of this contagion. All public safety entities, as well as private sector entities have taken a hit due to staffing issues, not just the Sheriff’s Department. For a candidate to say that due to their upbeat leadership style they can transform a department and make changes that will make everyone happy is pretty much a fairy tale. It takes hard work, communication with all of the staff and a willingness to jump in shoulder-to-shoulder with them as I have done throughout my career. The position of Sheriff of Laramie County is an enormous responsibility and is not a position that a novice with no practical law enforcement knowledge or experience can be entrusted with. That is not a dig; that is just a statement of fact. Nor is it a position where individuals with no practical county jail experience, to include executive jail leadership experience, should be entrusted with. This is too important of a position to be granted to anyone without the appropriate overall knowledge and skills necessary to successfully lead this agency.