SHERIFF'S OFFICE RAISES
In the past year, the following Hamilton County Sheriff's Office employees, including Parson, have received pay raises. The sheriff's office did not provide the raise percentages or salary totals,
• Director of Support Services Geno Bennett
• Chief Deputy Allen Branum
• Executive Secretary Anne Brown
• Secretary Charlotte LeaAnn Garner
• Director of Administration Donald Gormon Jr.
• Corrections Officer Terry Lee Jefferies
• Juror escort Donald Earl Klasing
• Secretary Janis Witt Reno
• Corrections Capt. John Swope Jr.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Ron Parson is one of the department's highest-paid members and one of only five deputies to receive merit pay raises in April from Sheriff Jim Hammond.
Records show Parson earns $71,455 annually but is classified as an hourly employee. That allowed him to bill 63 hours of overtime during the week after the April 27 tornadoes. During that time, Parson said, he remained at the command post as a supervisor.
"I put down what's really due to me," Parson said when asked about the 103-hour work week.
He stated he worked all day and night during the storms.
Hammond said deputies filed for a total of $86,000 in overtime the week of the storms.
"That was a very trying time; that was unusual," he said.
Patrol officers whom Parson oversees have not had pay raises since 2008, said the vice president of International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 673. He asked not to be named because department policy prohibits anyone from speaking publicly without the sheriff's or chief deputy's permission.
"It infuriates me and the members of the union," said the union rep. "It's ridiculous that he can be there since 2006 to now and have $16,000 [in raises] in five years. We haven't got anything since 2008. The raise we did get was because our insurance premiums were increasing. After I did the math, I was bringing in 7 cents on the hour more. Nothing noticeable."
The base pay for a patrol deputy is $35,421. Hammond said the county has not authorized across-the-board raises in several years. He said merit raises are within county guidelines.
Hammond said the recent group of raises, which included Parson, was to reward those who help him run the sheriff's office 24/7.
"These are people that carry out your agenda day and night," Hammond said.
Hammond approved Parson's $2,097 raise even though the deputy chief was the subject of an internal affairs investigation in the past year.
Investigators said Parson had a jailer complete work for him in a leadership academy course and later submitted the course completion certificate to state officials.
"I don't think it rose to the level of denying him a merit raise," Hammond said. "That was a personal decision on my part."
Hammond said he was unaware Parson held an hourly position.
Don Gorman Jr., director of administration, said that only the sheriff, head cook, executive secretary and chief deputy are salaried. Everyone else is paid by the hour, he said, citing civil service law.
Parson was hired in 2006 by former Sheriff Billy Long, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to 27 charges involving extortion, money laundering, drugs and guns and is serving 14 years in prison. Before that, Parson spent most of his career with the Chattanooga Police Department, leaving as a sergeant.
Once in the sheriff's office, Parson rose through the ranks. His pay has grown from $55,245 to $71,455, and much of his $16,210 in extra pay came when rank-and-file deputies didn't get raises, pay records show.
Parson said many people resent his pay and position. He also receives a pension for his years as a Chattanooga police officer.
"I've got a lot of people who don't like that," he said. "I've got a lot of enemies. I've got a lot of people dropping quarters every day. All I do is strive to give help and help get things they need."
Parson said he offered to give back the April raise, but the sheriff turned him down.
"With a 3 percent raise, I've really got a whole lot of heat," Parson said.
Hammond said he tries to be judicious when it comes to awarding raises. A few other people also got raises at the sheriff's office in the last year, he said.
"I try to be as fair and middle of the road as possible. Some people see that. Some people will never see or understand that," the sheriff said.
The union rep said many deputies believe the raises are given mostly to administrators "because they know how much is in the sheriff's office budget and how much they have left."
"So they get the pay raises rather than giving it out to the rest of employees," he said. "Me, I feel it's all politics. It's who you know. They can get away with it. So they might as well do it."