Clerical error boosts Catoosa sheriff's salary

Clerical error boosts Catoosa sheriff's salary

March 2nd, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Phil Summers, Catoosa County Sheriff

Catoosa County paid its sheriff too much in 1999 - and has continued to so ever since - all because of a clerical error.

According to a resolution ratified at Tuesday's Catoosa County Commission meeting, Sheriff Phil Summers was mistakenly given a 10 percent longevity increase in 1999 instead of the 5 percent he should have been awarded.

The error was carried forward for 11 years until county staff discovered the problem in December.

According to public records, Summers made $107,787 in 2009.

The sheriff said he was "totally taken by surprise" and repaid the county $3,500 to make up for 2010.

Sheriffs' salaries are based on the population of the counties they serve, Summers explained, and said the mistake stemmed from a mistake in that calculation. He and other constitutional officers in the county make the minimum amount set by the state, he said.

"Apparently, it's gone unidentified since 1999," he said of the error. "It wasn't a huge amount of money."

If the $3,500 Summers repaid for 2010 was called back for every year since the mistake, he would owe about $35,000.

Commissioners ratified the new, correct salary and signed a resolution that stated, among other things, that the sheriff had "performed in an exemplary manner" and "it would be unfair to penalize the sheriff for a clerical error."

"Certainly he wasn't trying to pull a fast one," said Commissioner Jim Cutler. "He didn't realize [it] and they didn't catch it."

Cutler and Commissioner Bobby Winters pointed out that the mistake was made under previous commissioners and staff members.

"That happened way before any of us were on the board," Winters said. "I think all that's settled. The sheriff's happy and we're happy."

Contact staff writer Andy Johns at ajohns@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6324.