Shelby County faces possible lawsuit over law enforcement pay

The Fraternal Order of Police warned Shelby County commissioners- pay up or prepare for court.

Not one Shelby County employee has gotten a merit pay raise this fiscal year due to a slow economy.

But the FOP says the commission does not have authority to eliminate those raises for people working for the sheriff. The organization is now threatening legal action.

A previous lawsuit against the commission reaffirmed the Shelby County Law Enforcement Personnel Board's authority.

The commission is not saying no to the merit pay raises. It's just telling the sheriff to fund it.

Property taxes are down an estimated three to five percent, so the county budget decreased this fiscal year by three million dollars

"The people in my office realize we have a job to get done and we have to live within our means," said Property Tax Commissioner Donald Armstrong. "They're just glad to have a job."

Everyone is learning to live within their means.

The sheriff's office remains understaffed. The department's maintenance requests are going unfilled, and there are still problems paying other bills.

"We've got the find 225 thousand just to keep the cars running, so there's no way in the world for us to fund that," said Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry.

"That" would be merit pay raises mandated by the law enforcement board.

Until this year, the Shelby County's budget included a line item for those raises.

During Monday's meeting, the line was drawn.

"Our intention is to seek litigation against this commission," said Clay Hammac of the FOP to the commission. "This is not about dollars and cents. This is about the county commission superceding the law of the personnel board."

The FOP says the commission did that when it passed a resolution suspending merit pay because of the economy. But a 1992 lawsuit reaffirms the power given to the law enforcement board through a legislative act. It is the only body that can make decisions about pay for employees working for the sheriff.

"The county commission has fiduciary powers until there is any balancing to be done in their component. That's where it's at," said Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock.

Commissioners are concerned that only giving sheriff's employees merit pay would lower morale.

The sheriff says he sympathizes with them but they can apply for a job in his office.

Before a suit is filed, it will have to be approved by members of the FOP.

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