By Susan Redden
CARTHAGE, Mo. — Raises for workers in the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department will go through, even though the County Commission authorized no pay hikes for this year.
Work on payroll checks for sheriff’s employees was stalled on Thursday after pay raises authorized by Sheriff Archie Dunn brought questions from other county officials.
Dean Dankelson, county prosecutor, said he told commissioners late Thursday that they have no authority to stop the pay hikes.
“I told them (commissioners) they control officeholders’ overall budgets, but not individual expenditures like salaries within the budget,” Dankelson said Friday.
He said case law in Missouri courts has determined that once a county budget is approved, it is up the officeholder to decide how he or she spends funds allocated, and it’s up to the commission to make sure officeholders stay within their department budgets.
Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner, had asked that work on the Sheriff’s Department payroll stop after Bonnie Earl, county clerk, questioned raises going to sheriff’s employees when the commission approved no pay hikes. The clerk’s office prepares payroll for all county departments.
“I think this is very unfair to the rest of the county employees,” Honey said Friday. “I can’t believe another elected official would do that, when the commission said there would not be raises.”
Darieus Adams, Western District associate commissioner, noted that the commission has no authority to stop the checks being written.
“Once we appropriate the money, as long as he doesn’t overspend his budget, he (the sheriff) has every right to spend it as he sees fit,” he said.
Adams said he agreed with Honey “that I thought there was an agreement no department heads would give raises,” adding “obviously, I guess that’s not what I heard.”
John Bartosh, presiding commissioner, said he also thought “everyone was in agreement there would be no raises” and that it would apply to the sheriff’s office as well as other departments.
“They’re part of the county just like the rest of us,” he said.
Attempts to reach Dunn on Friday night were unsuccessful. On Thursday, he defended the raises and said funding for them was reflected in the proposed budget he submitted to the county auditor and approved by the commission.
Dunn said the budget authorized a certain amount of money for the department, and “it’s up to me how I spend it,” he said.
He said salaries for his workers are based on a pay grid that calls for 2 percent step increases, noting other county workers received 3 percent pay hikes last year.
The commission in action on the budget late last month agreed there would be no funds allocated for raises after Richard Webster, county auditor and budget officer, recommended against it.
Webster said there is money available to pay for the Sheriff’s Department raises, because Sheriff’s Department revenue comes from a quarter-cent law enforcement sales tax, as well as the county’s general fund.
“The general fund doesn’t have any extra money, and it funds most offices and workers’ salaries,” he said. “I didn’t think it was prudent that we spend another $200,000 from the general fund on pay raises when the economy is so uncertain.”
But after the commission appropriates the money, Webster agreed, the officeholder “can basically do what they want.”
“The sheriff has the money,” he said, “where the other officeholders don’t. The problem is it causes a firestorm in the county because other employees feel like it’s unfair, which you really can’t argue with. They see it as a matter of fairness, and it causes morale problems among the workers and frustrates the other elected officials.”
Honey said that some other departments also had separate funding sources and could have given their workers raises.
Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner, said county funds are paying for a 12 percent increase in workers’ health insurance premiums.
By Susan Redden