Escambia County

Progress made on jail transfer. Personnel issues covered…at least most of them

August 14, 2013

Jail Bars
By Jesse Farthing

Chief Deputy Eric Haines meticulously slashed a personnel budget requesting 26 additional employees, at a cost of $1.6 million, for the county’s jail takeover, position by position, until the two sides finally came to an agreement hours later.

Today’s Jail Transfer Workshop Meeting was specifically about personnel required by the county for the operations of the jail. Though Haines specified that, before this morning, he was only aware of nine position requests, the county produced an operational list that included 26 positions to be funded, either from the sheriff’s budget or somewhere else.

Haines argued that because of the consolidation of the jail and sheriff’s department, many of the requested positions could not be taken directly from the sheriff’s budget or the sheriff’s department would be left without anyone to maintain those divisions in their department. Specifically, legal services, internal affairs, IT services and the human resources departments in the sheriff’s administrative budget were pulling double-duty by handling things on the sheriff’s side as well as the jail side.

Haines argued, as he has in previous meetings, that the sheriff’s department could not possibly fund new attorneys, among other positions, for the jail without compromising their own ability to function. The first concession that the county made was regarding the requested attorneys.

“I obviously can’t take away any of your legal staff, I concede that,” Interim County Administrator George Touart said at this morning’s meeting. “We’re going to have some costs. I understand that.”

It’s unclear where the salaries for the new legal staff will come from, but it will not come from the sheriff’s budget, according to Touart.

As the two sides went through the list of positions one by one, Haines argued against the necessity of many and found several others that were already funded through the jail budget that the county is taking over. Multiple vacant positions in the sheriff’s office will be transferred to the county to cover things like administrative assistants and an accounting technician required by the jail.

In a move to free up more of the county’s money for new hires, Haines offered to let the sheriff’s polygraphist handle the needs of the county – up to a point. Haines said that there had to be a limit to how much work the polygraphist could do for the county, but a specific number was not settled on.

By the time the halfway point of the meeting was reached, the personnel funds being hashed out had been reduced from the initial $1.6 million to about $500,000 worth of salaries. Haines offered to split that cost down the middle between the sheriff’s office and the county, but was shot down by Touart’s budget director, Amy Lovoy, who argued that if they were to split the remaining cost down the middle, then the two legal staff salaries should be added back into that number.

The IT positions were another lengthy debate. Haines argued that the jail already has a systems analyst and offered to give up an IT tech to cover the requested network analyst position. However, he was unwilling to look for more money out of the sheriff’s budget to cover the salary for a system administrator that the county requires for jail operations.

Eventually, enough compromise was reached between the two sides that every required position would be funded by either the sheriff or the county, filled using vacancies at the sheriff’s department or filled by shifting money from other parts of the respective budgets. Neither side made it out without concession, and more debate will take place on Monday regarding one-time expenses related to the transfer and space issues for personnel.

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