Request for Pay Raises
Sussex County Online Publisher
Photo: Sussex County Sheriff Robert Reed (in uniform) and Councilman Dale Dukes (right) discuss the sheriff's requests for pay raises and increased training.
GEORGETOWN -- The grudge match between Sussex County Council and Sheriff Robert Reed continued at council's regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2000, with no end in sight to the impasse over pay raises and increased training for sheriff's deputies.
Council members, who control the Sheriff's Department's $348,000 budget, were unmoved by Sheriff Reed's second request in the past three months to raise starting salaries for deputies from $17,500 to $23,600.
Reed said the $17,500 salary is just barely above the poverty level for a family of four and that the $23,600 salary would match the salary of state constables, who perform the same duties as the sheriff's deputies.
In a 45-minute hearing that often turned personal, council rarely agreed with Sheriff Reed, including Reed's request to move the hearing to executive session without Sussex County Administrator Robert Stickels and Personnel Director Dennis V. Cordrey, who he felt would be "interruptions".
Besides the pay raise request, Reed also asked council to consider expanding the deputies' work week from 35 to 40 hours to reduce comp time and overtime and to consider increased training for deputies due to more dangerous conditions.
Council members made no decision regarding the sheriff's requests, preferring to look over the material presented by Sheriff Reed and possibly vote when Councilman George Cole, who was absent to tend to personal business, returned for the Oct. 10 council meeting.
Council members did, however, express many concerns about Reed's requests.
Besides the pay raises, council members felt that the state police certification training requested by Reed would create a quasi county police force that might implement training learned at the state police academy in situations that council would prefer other law enforcement agencies to handle and again reiterated concerns about the unauthorized use of red flashing lights on sheriff's department cars.
Reed said he was against the institution of a county police force but that the additional training was necessary given FBI statistics that show that 64 sheriff's deputies around the country have been shot and killed in the past three years performing the typical sheriff's office duties of serving papers.
Councilman Dale Dukes, who had the most testy exchanges with Reed, questioned why none of the deputies were wearing bullet-proof vests that council purchased at "several hundred dollars apiece".
Dukes also objected to information appearing in local newspapers that he said came from the sheriff's office. Most notably, Dukes cited an August article in the Daily Times in Salisbury, Md., that stated that two sheriff's deputies had left the department because of low pay.
Dukes said he had the personnel records of the five deputies that had left most recently and that none had left for financial reasons. But when he asked Reed if that was correct, Reed replied, "No." He said two deputies said they would have stayed with the department had the pay raise gone through in August.
Dukes also said that the county personnel office has received five applications for existing deputy openings.
As for training, Dukes said deputies should be wearing the bullet-proof vests that council purchasd.
Dukes finally suggested that council should rescind the 3 percent commissions it gives the sheriff's department on sales of personal property. When Reed asked Dukes, "Is that a threat?", Dukes replied, "No, that's a promise."
Dukes said he was not picking on Reed but relaying what his constituents have said to him. He said one constituent told him he fully supported the council's actions and that a county employee told him that if council approved the pay raises that "every county employee will be on your back."
Dukes then said that the best solution might be to follow the News-Journal's advice of evaluating the need for a sheriff's department, at which point Reed said that Dukes has no appreciation for the duties performed by or the tradition of the county's sheriff's department.
Dukes shot back that Reed doesn't understand finances, but Reed countered that he has the department "operating in the black". Dukes, however, said that was due mainly to the 3 percent sales commission the county gives the department on sheriff's sales.
Council members also questioned Reed's contention that he had not been informed about the budget hearing to present his request during the budget process. Councilman Finley B. Jones said there is a budget mechanism in place that should be followed. Other council members said that in his second year on the job, Reed should know by now what that budget process is.
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