STANFORD — Lincoln County officials have approved paying a former sheriff’s deputy more than $4,900 in back vacation pay, but it’s the remaining thousands of vacation hours still held by the department’s other deputies that are worrisome for the sheriff’s budget.
Officials estimate the county’s deputies have accrued a total of approximately $100,000 worth of paid time off during multiple years of working without using many vacation hours. The danger of such a large pile of owed vacation is if multiple deputies leave at about the same time, the county will be on the hook to pay off the unused hours.
“The liability is not imminent, but it’s there,” Judge-Executive Jim Adams said Oct. 24 during a meeting between Lincoln County Fiscal Court and members of the sheriff’s department.
Former deputy Jeremy Garrison is a case study in what can happen if deputies leave with large amounts of unpaid vacation.
When Garrison left his position in September for a job with Stanford police, he had 441 hours — about 11 weeks — of vacation time he had never been paid for.
Lincoln County Judge-Executive Jim Adams said the county initially paid Garrison for 12 days of vacation time — the maximum amount employees in other county departments are supposed to be allowed to carry over from year to year.
But after consulting with the Kentucky Association of Counties about legalities and discovering a road department employee who was paid for 30 days of unused vacation time, Adams recommended county magistrates approve payment of Garrison’s remaining 345 hours.
“There has been a precedent set that someone has been paid more than the 12 days,” Adams said. “He has a good case if he wants to … take it to small claims court.”
Magistrates unanimously approved payment of $4,923.15 to Garrison out of Sheriff Curt Folger’s budget.
As for the remaining deputies’ accrued vacation time, Folger told magistrates he would like a year to bring those hours down to a more manageable amount.
But taking vacation time means less coverage and fewer deputies on duty at a time when calls for assistance are on the rise, he added. “We’ve got so many calls — you all really don’t know,” Folger said.
Folger told magistrates he believes call volume has almost doubled during the past two years. Folger would like the county to help cover the costs of the deputies’ vacation time so his department can continue to offer 24/7 service at its current level.
Magistrates said they have and will continue to support Folger however they can, but there is no money anywhere in the county’s budget that can be freed. Adams said the county’s legal responsibility to cover the sheriff department’s costs ends with the fees the sheriff collects from taxes. The county currently goes beyond that responsibility and covers about $340,000 of the sheriff’s expenses out of its general fund, he added.
Magistrate David Faulkner said the county’s budget is already at a breaking point.
“I don’t think we can pay this,” Faulkner said. “We need to find a way for Curt to work this down. ... That’s the only way we can pay for it, I think.”
Folger acknowledged Oct. 25 that having the county cover all of the deputies’ vacation time is probably not a financially possible solution.
As of this morning, Folger is disputing the accuracy of the $100,000 figure.