Hamilton Sheriff, Commissioners blame each other for not offering raises
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Minutes after addressing the Hamilton County Commission, corrections officer Jon Walker admits that he's considered he might lost his job over it.
"I'm scared to death," he says. "But it's gotta be done. Somebody had to stand up for the department."
He appeared as an Army of One. But he claims to be speaking for more than 300 employees, from jailers to patrol officers, deputies to supervisors; asking 'why have we not gotten raises for the past three years?
"We would be making twelve percent more than now," he says. "It comes out $3948 and some odd cents."
Instead, he says, corrections officers often pull double-shifts; mandatory overtime to cover short-staffing. Sheriff's Jim Hammond's proposed budget allocates more than $544,000 to cover overtime for the jail alone.
"I make $32,000 after six years," Walker says. "Overtime pushes it to $45-50,000 for a lot of these guys. But they're missing their children growing up."
Sheriff Hammond is asking for approximately $1.8 million more to cover operations in the fiscal year that begins in July.
But no money for an across-the-board raise.
"Raises are not determined by the Sheriff's Office," Hammond told Channel 3 May 1. "They're determined by the county general spending and Commissioners."
Wednesday, Commissioners kicked it right back into Hammond's court.
"We are certainly sympathetic," Commissioner Greg Beck says.
"But that's not our decision," says Commissioner Fred Skillern," We could give an extra $2 million and earmark it for raises."
"If we gave you $10 million more," Beck says.
"You may not get a penny," Skillern concludes.
Sheriff Hammond says Commissioners are accurate, to a point.
"Anything I give in raises has to come from money appropriated for salaries," he tells Eyewitness News Wednesday afternoon.
"And you're right, there's some game playing going on. It's a mind game."
Hammond says he hasn't met Walker face-to-face, but would be willing to do so, or to meet with any officer or group to discuss budget concerns.
"I told a number of officers, in a meeting, that they could, as private citizens, ask to address the Commission during Public Comment," he says.
"As long as they made clear they were private citizens, and not speaking for the Department, or claim that I'd asked them to do it, they were fine."
Hammond says he doesn't consider Walker insubordinate, nor should he fear for his job, for exercising that right.
Walker's law enforcement fraternal organization will decide in the next couple of weeks whether to file a grievance against Hammond in Chancery Court.
"I support the Sheriff and I love where I work," Walker says. "But even if they (his group) decides to table it, I will do what it takes to keep going."