Marlow and Perkins hit impasse; court to rule

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By Susan Sharp

While standoffs can be common in law enforcement, they usually occur between police and criminals not between police and the people who cut their paychecks.

However, a Friday chancery court filing has revealed that Campbell County Sheriff Gary Perkins and Campbell County Finance Director Jeff Marlow are at odds.

The lightning rod issue is what defines an administrative employee versus a non- administrative employee and who gets to decide the classification.

That is an issue Joe Coker, county attorney, has asked the court to rule on in the petition he filed.

At the crux of what differentiates between the groups is money. Administrative personnel are not eligible for overtime pay. Non- administrative employees are allowed to garner overtime, the court records say.

Earlier this year, Marlow requested all department heads identify the employees in their branches that were classified as holding administrative positions, according to court records.

 On April 6, Perkins responded that his department had two people working in administrative capacities, himself and Capt. Don Farmer.

However, after reviewing Perkins’ memo and an employee change form he submitted in September 2006, Marlow had a different view of the situation, according to the court records.

In a letter dated May 26, Marlow told Gary Perkins that Joe Perkins, who serves as the jail administrator, had been promoted when he was placed in that position in September 2006. The promotion was accompanied by a $7,180 a year raise. And with that monetary increase was the expectation Joe Perkins would perform “administrative duties associated with the operation of the jail,” the letter said. Marlow went on to say the position held by an employee was not the only determining factor in answering the overtime eligibility question. The duties the employee is expected to carry out plays a part as well.

Essentially, Joe Perkins could not hold an administrative position and earn overtime compensation.

Marlow then told the sheriff he had two choices that could resolve the problem.

The first option was to retain a jail administrator in his department but with modifications. The base salary for the job would have to be increased going forward and no overtime be paid.

As of June 19, Joe Perkins earned $40,892 a year, court records say. This included a base salary of $38,618 and $2,274 in longevity compensation. Marlow suggested, in another letter to Gary Perkins, that an appropriate increase for Joe Perkins, should he choose to retain him in the current capacity, eliminating his eligibility for overtime would be in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $6,000.

The $6,000 increase would mean a $46,892 a year salary for Joe Perkins, the court filing says.

The second option presented to the sheriff was he could elect to eliminate the position. By choosing this option, Joe Perkins would be demoted to a non- administrative employee but still have the ability to earn overtime pay.

Records obtained from the Campbell County Finance Department through the Freedom of Information Act indicate Joe Perkins earned $14,121.88 in overtime pay during the 2008 calendar year.

When Marlow presented the sheriff with his options, he further said that as of that date, Joe Perkins would no longer receive overtime payments, according to documents filed with petition.

Gary Perkins’ response to the options Marlow presented was simple, “I have no intentions of following your recommendations as you have presented them,” the sheriff wrote in a June 25 letter.

He also questioned Marlow’s authority to withhold overtime payments to Joe Perkins.

Joe Perkins has continued to submit requests for payments of overtime since the new fiscal year began on July 1. To date, he has been paid $1,145.46 in overtime compensation, according to information received from the finance department. Because his status has not been changed nor determined, the finance department must pay him for the hours he has tendered.

In the June 25 letter, Gary Perkins agreed he had submitted the employee change form for Joe Perkins. However, he contended he had “only followed the procedure of the previous administration” that had been approved by the finance department. He went on to say the job duties of the jail administrator had not changed “only the administration of the sheriff’s office” had.

Four days later, the sheriff drafted another letter to Marlow regarding the stalemate.

Addressing the duties of Joe Perkins, the sheriff said half of his time was spent on the daily operations of the jail, not on management issues. Continuing with the attempt to clarify the position of jail administrator, Gary Perkins said, that position didn’t come with the authority to make decisions regarding other employees.

The sheriff then told Marlow the tactic he had taken with the situation was “inconsistent with the regulations that govern” the sheriff’s office because as an office holder, he (Gary Perkins) had the statutory powers.

In closing the letter, the sheriff said he expected this would “clarify” his position putting the issue to rest.

The court record contains no other communication between the two men.

Instead, Coker’s petition asking for the court to issue a ruling is the next document in the chronological order of the issue.

That petition asks Chancellor Billy Joe White to make a ruling on this situation, in four areas, based on the law.

Coker specifically asks for the court to determine what the roles of the sheriff and the county finance director are in deciding if an employee falls into the administrative or non-administrative category as it pertains to the sheriff’s department and overtime eligibility.

The petition also asks the court to decide who holds the power in determining and classifying employees of the CCSD as it pertains to the administrative versus non-administrative question.

The third question Coker asks the court to answer is how the jail administrator should be classified- administrative or not. And is this post eligible for overtime?

Coker’s fourth and final question of the petition is, in general, “what county official or officials have the ultimate duty and responsibility to make the final determination” on county employees’ classifications.

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