Jackson County Commission meeting gets heated over “unfair” compensation

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JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. – The Jackson County commission meeting Monday evening became heated as sheriff’s office employees demanded a fair playing field for their deputies as compared to other courthouse staff.   During the meeting, Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen and four others from the sheriff’s office said while they do understand budget issues Jackson County has, they believe fair is fair.

Since re-opening, courthouse employees have been working every other day to ensure if one of them gets COVID-19, that the whole department does not have to quarantine.

The problem is that they have been getting paid for working full shifts.

Sheriff’s officials said they should be getting hazard pay or some other type of monetary compensation since they have worked their full shifts.

Harnen said two comments from an unidentified source got back to his office that the sheriff’s office signed up for the job and knew what they were getting into it. He said “shame on you” to whoever made those statements.

“Sheriff’s office employees were offered no such schedules or any compensation for the off days afforded certain county employees. That simply is not fair. Please tell me why and how an employee from one of those offices for your a and b schedule is more valuable that sheriff’s office employee and not deserving of the same compensation,” said Jackson County Sheriff’s Office chief clerk Kim Rice-Holman.

“Make it fair. If you’re going to give it to somebody, give to the rest of us. We should be getting hazardous pay like a lot of other counties are, but we’re not,” said Sergeant Randy Arnold.

Commission chairman Tim Guffey initially offered the sheriff’s deputies an extra $50 a week for hazard pay or comp days, but that was not accepted by the deputies.

Harnen explained to the commission that in 2018 and 2019, five employees were unable to use a total of 511.5 hours of comp time. He said that the county paid out almost $14,000 because the employees were forced to work instead of being off those days.

Harnen said because they are short-staffed, it is impossible for the deputies to ever use the comp days they have been given.

The commission, along with Harnen and jail officials took the discussion into executive session to work on a solution.

Harned told WHNT News 19 after the meeting was over that the commission is going to pay the deputies that worked an extra 40 hours.

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