STANFORD — When Jeremy Garrison left the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department for a job with the Stanford Police Department earlier this month, the deputy had accumulated more than 300 hours of vacation time and holiday pay, equaling about $6,000 worth of time for which he hadn’t been paid.
“I pulled six years as a deputy,’ Garrison told the Fiscal Court on Tuesday. “I tried to be a good employee to the county. I want to be paid what I feel I’m owed.”
Garrison, it turns out, is only the tip of the iceberg. All nine deputies in the department have accrued lots of uncompensated hours, and many showed up Tuesday to ask how they would be paid back for time they’ve already put in.
“A lot of our department has more than 356 hours of accrued time,” Sheriff Curt Folger told magistrates. “We’ve been so busy, they’ve not had time to take their days.”
While praising the department for doing excellent work in responding to a growing number of calls, magistrates balked at the idea of coming up with the kind of money it would take to pay off all of the deputies’ accrued time. Instead, it has been suggested that the deputies use up their back time before the end of the year or lose it.
“We’d be bankrupt,” Magistrate David Faulkner said.
Judge-Executive Jimbo Adams said the Fiscal Court will meet with sheriff’s department employees within two weeks to try to figure out a solution that both sides can live with. In the meantime, Adams directed Folger to come up with specific numbers for each employee who has accumulated back vacation and holiday time.
Folger, who has been sheriff for six years, said deputies had been allowed to carry over their unused vacation and holiday time from year to year under previous sheriff Shelby Lakes, and he has continued that policy.
The situation with the large amount of accrued time has increased as Folger has built the department in to one that responds to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the number of calls the department receives has risen dramatically, Folger said.
Deputy Ryan Kirkpatrick told magistrates he was the only certified officer on duty in the county during a 10-hour shift overnight on Monday, and Kentucky State Police only had one trooper patrolling a five-county area. Kirkpatrick said he answered 42 complaints that night.
Officers can’t simply “punch a clock and go home” at the end of shift because the nature of their jobs often requires them to remain at an accident or crime scene well beyond quitting time, he said.
“Personally, I’d rather take the time off,” Kirkpatrick said. “But there’s no way to schedule the time into the schedule” and continue to provide the level of service county residents expect.
Faulker said he suggested to Folger a couple of years ago that the sheriff develop his own policies for his department to deal with accrued hours — independent of what applies to other county employees — and recommended that idea again Tuesday.
“It’s something you guys have to manage,” Faulkner said.