Budget issues continue to threaten law enforcement jobs in Ottawa County

Ottawa County Sheriff Jeremy Floyd

OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. – Ottawa County Sheriff Jeremy Floyd updates social media followers, telling residents “you are the voice” after his department is told to layoff all full-time deputies.

KOAM will speak more with Sheriff Floyd about the budget issues on Tuesday.

Dec. 27 report on budget for the Sheriff’s Office by KOAM Reporter Zach Dodge:

The Ottawa County Sheriff will now be held financially responsible for any budget overages.

Before, when he went over on his budget, the county would take money from reserves to make up the difference.  Now, they have decided to make him pay instead.

The county says Floyd recently went over his month payroll budget restrictions, but the sheriff says that isn’t the case.

“I’ve been fought and pushed back on everything I try to do that’s positive within this county,” says Ottawa County Sheriff Jeremy Floyd.

For this fiscal year (2019-2020), the sheriff has a total payroll budget of 988 thousand dollars. That’s compared to the 1.3 million dollars he had during the last fiscal year.

“It hurts. You know because what can I do when I take a 400 thousand dollar hit basically on my payroll,” says Floyd.

Floyd says because of that decrease, he hasn’t been able to give any kind of yearly raises, increase pay after a 10 percent pay cut, or re-hire any employees he had to let go during the last fiscal year.

“When I took office in 2016, we had staffing in the 60s. Now we’re in the 20s,” says Floyd. “And that’s running one deputy a shift… and that’s running the, actually technically not even compliant in the jail.”

Last month he hired two employees to replace two others that had quit, which caused some employees to get overtime.

Floyd says he was told by the commission that the hires and the overtime put him over his monthly payroll restriction of 77-thousand a month.

So those two employees weren’t paid.

“I had to sit down with these employees right before Christmas and say I’m sorry, but I can’t give you a check,” says Floyd.

Floyd says he is currently talking with commissioners to get those employee’s compensation.

Ottawa County District Attorney Kenny Wright says this is an area where poor communication took place. He says the county thought those were two new employees.. and didn’t learn until later they were replacements.

Wright also says there’s been some miscommunication and confusion on the budget restriction.

“At the given point before the last payroll this month we had seven payrolls, cause our fiscal year ends in June. With seven left, our monthly figure should have been around 85 thousand. 85 thousand, a hundred and 18 dollars to be exact. Payroll came in around 83. 77 was the last fiscal year’s restriction,” says Floyd. “In fact, I was two thousand dollars under if we want to look at true numbers.”

Wright says he’s told officials to work through the numbers to figure out which figure is right.

That brings us to now.

At the county commission meeting on December 23rd, the commission voted to start holding Floyd financially responsible for any budget overages in the future, or for any unapproved purchases.

To hold him responsible, the county would send him a letter in the mail with a fee, and if he doesn’t pay it, he could be suid by a jail vendor or unpaid employees.

“I’ve been told through legal advice that’s not even legal to do. No one’s ever heard of that,” says Floyd. “They’re gonna hold me responsible, personally liable… it’s kind of like, I’m the sheriff, these employees worked for the county or the jail, but we don’t have the money so you’re gonna have to pay for them. When I’m showing that the money’s there.”

Wright says the decision is based on opinion from the Oklahoma State Auditor’s office, where if an elected official makes a purchase that isn’t properly approved, it’s considered an “illegal purchase,” and that that official should be held responsible.

Wright also says they could charge Floyd for overages each month he goes over his payroll restriction, or at the end of the fiscal year.

He does not know if the county will hold Floyd accountable for the rest of the fiscal year, or indefinitely.