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Pay Issue for Jennings County Jail Staff Still Muddy

A budget issue affecting jail staff in Jennings County is short on solutions, but long on confusion and anger. That after a Tuesday night meeting of the Jennings County Council.

At issue is a pay hike approved by the council last year to go in to effect for all county employees. That pay hike was supposed to be two percent for every employee. The problem, say county officials, is that jail employees received an 11.7 percent increase.

How that happened is still being investigated, but what has happened since the discovery has jail staff fuming. With two days notice (some say they received no notice), jail employees picked up their paychecks on Feb. 22 to discover the county simply held back a significant percentage of income to "pay back" the county.

Corp. Jason Allen, of Scottsburg, told the council that he picked up his bi-weekly check to find $94, approximately 15 percent of his gross pay and a quarter of his net, taken out. Allen said that was the first he heard about having to pay money back to the county. "I wouldn't let a man take $94 out of my wallet, but since it's you guys, what am I supposed to do?," asked Allen.

Allen, who's worked at the jail since 1997, told the body that he has five kids and to have that money taken from him has put he and his family in dire financial straits. He spoke about the massive improvements to the jail that has taken place in the years since he has joined. Allen said the jail is one of the best run in the area and that the inmates respect the staff. Pleading with the council to "fix this," Allen said, "I want to believe our council has more respect for us than our inmates."

While council still have few answers as to what happened, they did learn that the decision to take money out of employee paychecks with little notice came not from a government entity, but a company that helps the county with its payroll. Council members said the auditor's office should have refused, or at least checked with legal representation before going through with the take-backs.

Maj. Sam Beard with the jail said the take-back violated Indiana law. He said employers are required to give employees at least two-weeks notice before taking back any salary overages. He took the auditor's office to task for the error.

While the issue is still muddy, council members and Jennings County Auditor Janice Ramey agreed that since there was no vote or binding order to take the money back, the practice will stop until the issue is resolved. The problem, the short paychecks will continue for another pay period, and possibly a third, before the auditor's office is able to make the changes needed to put a stop to the deductions. "We just need you to be patient," said Ramey.

Council members agreed to continue studying the issue and to get it corrected as soon as possible.

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:07:58 PM

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