Budget committee hears sheriff's request for salary increases
By Scott Loftis
Carroll County Sheriff Jim Ross met with the quorum court’s budget and finance committee Thursday afternoon to discuss salaries in the sheriff’s office.
On Jan. 9, Ross submitted a proposal to the quorum court requesting pay increases for sheriff’s office employees. In particular, Ross asked for significant raises for Maj. Jerry Williams and Capt. John Contreras, the second and third in command, respectively. Williams is CCSO’s chief deputy and Contreras is operations commander — both freshly promoted by Ross.
Ross’ request came after the quorum court approved a 2019 budget ordinance that includes raises of 70 cents an hour for all county employees, including CCSO personnel.
At Thursday’s meeting, Ross said his request was simply that, and that the CCSO will abide by the quorum court’s decision. As the county’s governing body, the quorum court has authority over the number of employees in the sheriff’s office as well as their salaries.
“I understand that,” Ross told the committee. “We’re lawkeepers. We keep the rules. And whatever this rule is, we’ll keep it. … we’ll do what we’re supposed to do.”
County treasurer Makita Williams pointed out a discrepancy between the salaries authorized in the budget ordinance, those requested by Ross and a third set of numbers whose origin was unclear among those in attendance at Thursday’s meeting.
“I’ve got numbers out the wazoo that none of them even match,” Williams said.
“Apparently, we’ve got too many fingers in the pie,” Ross replied. “And we can take care of that. We will.”
District 1 Justice of the Peace Jack Deaton, who chairs the committee, said he wasn’t sure about the pay increases requested for Williams and Contreras.
“I’m OK with this, except for the top two spots,” Deaton said. “They may be worth it, but they haven’t proved it to you yet.”
Later in the meeting, Ross praised Williams and Contreras for staying with the sheriff’s office.
“They’re both honest men,” the sheriff said. “They managed to keep their integrity through a really tough time. If they hadn’t, I don’t know where we’d be right now.”
District 11 JP John Howerton said the optics of the request don’t look good.
“It appears as though those two guys gave themselves a raise,” Howerton said.
“They can suggest it, and I can agree with it,” Ross said.
Williams again pointed out the three sets of conflicting numbers.
“At some point after I signed off on this, somebody changed it,” Ross said. “It wasn’t me and it wasn’t Jerry and it wasn’t John. … I’m learning as I go. Let me take responsibility for all of this. I’m the newest kid on the block.”
“We just need to do it and do it right,” said County Clerk Connie Doss, who also took office on Jan. 1.
Doss added that the sheriff’s office needs to implement “internal controls” and have one person be the “final stop” on payroll issues.
Later, Ross asked the committee if the money for raises for Jerry Williams and Contreras could simply be taken from his salary.
“Would you take it from me and give it to them?” he asked.
“We can’t do that,” Makita Williams responded. “The auditors won’t allow it.”
Ross reiterated that the sheriff’s office will abide by the quorum court’s decisions on payroll.
“We can beat this horse all day,” he said. “But what I said originally is what I mean. Whatever you can give ’em, they’ll take. All I’m asking is be as generous as you can.”
“I feel that we’re bound by the budget ordinance,” Howerton said. “It’s as simple as that.”
“I have to agree with that,” District 2 JP Chuck Olson said. “I do believe the whole crew is underpaid, but that’s beside the point.”
Ross said either Jerry Williams or Contreras “could go anywhere else and make more money — a lot more money — because of their abilities.”
After the meeting, Deaton confirmed that it is possible for the quorum court to amend the budget ordinance and make changes to employee salaries.