VERNON, Ind. (WDRB) -- Jennings County corrections officers tell of difficulty meeting new mortgage and car payments after finding part of a new pay raise deducted, without warning, from their Feb. 26 paychecks. They expect to find more deductions in their Wednesday paychecks.
The officers took their stories of sudden budget adjustments and questions about accountability to the people in charge of Jennings County finances -- the county council and the county auditor -- during the county council meeting Tuesday night.
Council president Howard Malcomb acknowledged the county made mistakes in granting the pay raises and in its subsequent handling of the deductions during a WDRB News interview Friday. Council member Josh Yeager, in the Tuesday meeting, also acknowledged "a series of mistakes that happened," and said, "They can be corrected, and they will be corrected."
However, Yeager did not give specifics during the first hour of the council meeting.
No one official has taken responsibility for the dispute that includes questions over budget amounts approved by the council and the state department of local government finance. In an off-camera interview Friday, county auditor Janice Ramey could not answer why or how her office prepared four 2014 payrolls with the $3,000 per year pay raises for corrections officers from Jan. 1 through the Feb. 12 payday.
Whether it was a mistake, a misunderstanding or a miscommunication, the corrections officers believed in good faith they were to receive raises of $3,000 each as of January 1. No one disputes the county paid those raises as part of the first four payrolls of the year, through Feb. 12. But the officers discovered the amount of raises that exceeded two percent of their pay deducted from their Feb. 26 checks. Overages are to be deducted, prorated, throughout checks for the rest of the year, Ramey and Holcomb said. The county is paying all of its workers a two percent raise for 2014.
Jail commander Maj. Sam Beard questioned if the county needed to give advance notice about the deductions under state law. Workers say the deductions came as a surprise. Ramey said Friday she "believed" that her office notified two jail officials about the deductions prior to the Feb. 26 payday. Those officials deny any notice.
Lt. Tim Welter said the loss in pay ranges from $75-$180 each for 22 corrections officers.
"I personally cannot afford it, and I know the rest of the people cannot afford it," Welter said.
"I don't know whose fault it is. But it needs to be corrected," Welter told council members. He said that county workers outside of the jail complained about corrections officers receiving larger raises than other employees.
"It hurts. I beg of you to give us our money back," said officer Jason Allen.
The officers and council members Malcomb and Yeager all said they did not expect a resolution from Tuesday's council meeting.
The initial video story from Tuesday's 10 p.m. news incorrectly identified county council member Josh Yeager. My error. --Chris Turner
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