2009-09-25 / Front Page

Owen County Council Unable To Resolve Issues Despite Motions

O.C. Prosecutor's Office Investigator Position A Hot Topic For Employees
by Michael Stanley Staff Writer

Owen County Sheriff Chester Richardson III and 10 of his deputies served as the majority of the audience in attendance for Wednesday's special meeting of the Owen County Council. Deputies took exception to decisions made in a previous meeting. (Staff Photo by Michael Stanley) Owen County Sheriff Chester Richardson III and 10 of his deputies served as the majority of the audience in attendance for Wednesday's special meeting of the Owen County Council. Deputies took exception to decisions made in a previous meeting. (Staff Photo by Michael Stanley) Wednesday evening the Owen County Council held a special public meeting to discuss items previously addressed during August budget hearings. The primary issue at hand relating to the prosecutor's office investigator had been addressed in the council's previous September meeting on Monday, September 14. However, misunderstanding of facts apparently clouded the judgement of some council members while voting.

Monday evening, with the absence of councilman Nick Robertson, the council held a lengthy discussion about the fact that the investigator position for the prosecutor's office is entitled to the same wage scale "bumps" to justify training and education as the county sheriff's department and its deputies; the position's base salary is nearly $4 more on the hour than the investigator or deputies at the Owen County Sheriff 's Department.

Unfortunately for Owen County Sheriff Chester Richardson III and his 10 deputies inside the commissioners' meeting room, the council clearly stated with a belt-tightening budget within a sketchy economy, any raises to justly adjust their base salaries would likely result in layoffs for an estimated four county employees.

The reasoning for a strong showing by the sheriff's department came from a previous 4-2-1 vote decision made by the council to move the prosecutor's investigator from 35 to 40 hours per week and adjust his pay accordingly.

A motion made by councilwoman Irma Jean Franklin moved the position from 40 hours back to the 35 hours worked each week prior. The council voted 5-0 in favor of the motion with Robertson and councilwoman Kristen Szczerbik not present for the vote due to being tardy for the beginning of the meeting.

"I have no problems with the prosecutor's investigator working 40 hours. I do have a problem when the base pay is different," Franklin stated. "It isn't the hours, because I know Dan (McBride) works them and more."

Also in its previous meeting, the council moved to rescind a motion made during August budget hearings to pay the position holder a sum of $1,000 to correct an issue of longevity pay. Councilman Anton Neff, who also sits on the council's wage committee, explained the payment was simply to correct the lack of longevity paid to the position from working a 35 hour week as opposed to the 40 hour week of a sheriff's deputy. However, the council voted Wednesday evening to in fact pay the $1,000 to fix the longevity issue, something deputies in attendance were obviously not in favor of.

"That leaves us with the same exact problem we had going into this, if you'll recall on August 20 when we started our budget hearings. The wage committee had pointed out two issues, two positions, two employees where when we did a flat-rate to hourly conversion, it resulted in a negative figure," Neff explained. "In this case, the investigator, because it's a 35 hour per week position, versus a 40, the sheriff's longevity rate per hour, when applied to a 35 hour pay set up, yields a five hour gap."

The council also briefly discussed the issue of combing the county's building and health departments and the need to pay a portion of the building department administrator's salary from the health department budget in order to comply with privacy laws affecting health department records.

The Owen County Council will meet again on Monday, October 12 beginning at 6:45 for a public hearing to discuss the possible sale of the former Owen County Home. The regular session meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Commissioners' Room, located on the second floor of the Owen County Courthouse.

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