Chattooga County sheriff backs off call for layoffs

Chattooga County sheriff backs off call for layoffs

September 19th, 2012 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Local Regional News

Chattooga County Sheriff John Everett answers questions during a news conference in this file photo.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

After outgoing Chattooga County Sheriff John Everett asked half of his patrol staff to volunteer to lose their jobs so he could stay within budget, he now has decided to do nothing.

Everett, who was defeated in a runoff election, was told to rein in his spending after he was projected to go over his $2.6 million budget this year by more than $300,000. His first reaction was to announce that 16 employees would be laid off, and a memo to that effect - asking people to step up to be let go - was posted Sept. 7 at the sheriff's office and jail.

A week later, Everett told Chattooga County Sole Commissioner Jason Winters that he didn't want to make any cuts. He then told a local radio station that he would let the next administration deal with the budget.

But Winters said that's not an option. He said the sheriff is obligated to manage his funds and he can't go over budget. Neither can he fire half the patrol staff, Winters said.

Everett, who didn't return calls seeking comment, will be replaced at the end of the year by one of the two sheriff's candidates in the November election - Trion Police Officer Mark Schrader or former Chattooga sheriff's Deputy Jamie Dawson.

In Everett's memo to his staff, he wrote that the budget had to be trimmed to make up for a countywide deficit in property tax revenue. But Winters said he told the sheriff to trim expenses because by year end he would be $216,000 over budget in his department and $117,000 in the jail.

Winters said the sheriff hired at least six more employees than he was budgeted for.

Everett also decided to move 40 inmates from Chattooga's jail to the Floyd County Jail, while keeping the same number of jail staff in Chattooga, Winters said.

The Chattooga jail can hold about 85 inmates and it has been at capacity, Chattooga Sheriff's Office Capt. Eddie Stroup said. Housing inmates at another jail typically costs the county about $35 a day, which the commissioner said is a greater expense for the county than using the Chattooga jail.

At a Friday meeting, Winters told Everett he has to decide how many jailers he needs compared with how many inmates are housed at the jail. Everett also will have to decide where to trim his budget, because Winters said there is no extra money to funnel to the sheriff's office.

"We simply don't have the funds," Winters said.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.