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Stark County sheriff questioned on overtime: Commissioner wants Tuhy's office to cut back

A Stark County commissioner and the county’s sheriff disagreed Tuesday about overtime hours.

During Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy’s monthly report to the commission, Commissioner Ken Zander asked how overtime — shown in a handout from Tuhy — is generated. Tuhy said it’s a combination of his office calling extra help in or when a deputy works past a shift’s end to fill out a report.

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The sheriff reported 327 hours of overtime were paid out in January for the prior 28-day pay period.

In an interview later Tuesday, Tuhy said some commissioners don’t understand how his office operates, and that it’s different from other county departments in that it’s 24/7 and unpredictable. Overtime includes pay to reserve deputies, who come in when more help is needed, he said.

Tuhy said at the meeting that sometimes deputies need to stay to finish a report, so it can be sent to the state’s attorney for charges to be filed.

“I disagree,” Zander said, “but I’m not running the Sheriff’s Department.”

“I just think, personally, that this overtime is out of control,” he said.

Zander said he’d like to see efforts made to reduce overtime, but Tuhy said the office is already trying.

“It’s not working,” Zander said.

Tuhy and Office Manager Renee Barndt explained following the meeting that of the hours paid out in January, for example, a small fraction was for “true overtime” — the rest was for reserve deputies’ work, courtroom security and other time-intensive tasks like prisoner transports, Barndt said.

The amount paid out, $2,252, represents only about a quarter of the actual cost. An energy impact grant covers the rest, though that money has run out so the costs will likely increase starting this month, Barndt and Tuhy said.

Tuhy said the 2014 budget was changed without his knowledge to go from budgeting $85,000 for overtime to $50,000, the same as last year.

Regardless, what the office has to pay in overtime is sometimes out of its control, Barndt said.

“A lot of the reasons we would have to call in a reserve or an off-duty deputy to come in is based on transports or court schedules that we would have,” she said. “A lot of that is just based on the activity in the county. We can’t predict how many criminals we may have to take to another agency. We can’t predict what the court docket is going to look like.”

Tuhy emphasized that the Sheriff’s Office is a 24/7 operation that can’t put people on hold.

“That’s what a lot of people, including some commissioners, don’t understand.”