SAGUACHE— Two weeks ago, a lone county commissioner reportedly authorized payroll officials to withhold merit raises authorized by Saguache County Sheriff Dan Warwick, claiming the sheriff must specifically request the raises from the board.
Warwick said when one employee enquired why his pay raise was missing, he was told that everything over $500 must be approved.
Warwick faced off with commissioners Tuesday, Feb. 20 over the missing raises, contesting the idea that the commissioners get final say in how he spends the budget they already approved for him. Some disagreement surfaced in who had axed the raises — the lone commissioner, as initially reported, or county administration.
Commissioners told Warwick county administration was responsible but previously courthouse sources said one commissioner made a special trip to the courthouse to stop the raises
rom going into effect. “I don’t know why the board pulled it,” Warwick told commissioners.
Commissioner Jason Anderson told Warwick the board needs to see the paperwork authorizing the raises and until it does, the raises “haven’t been rejected, they just have not come before the board yet.” Warwick told Anderson he is within his budget and has strictly stayed within his salary line item. “I’m doing what’s best for my budget and what is right by the taxpayers,” Warwick explained.
“We don’t have the information,” Commissioner Ken Anderson told the sheriff. “Get us the information and we will look it over.”
“Why do you guys get a say in what the undersheriff and the deputies make?” Warwick shot back. “We’ve been working 24/7 — I am not looking at these salaries arbitrarily.” He told commissioners his jail personnel are not even making minimum wage and his upper management staff is years behind in what should have been routine pay raises per their rank. Previous commissioners refused to fund former sheriff Mike Norris for years.
Commissioner Tim Lovato tangled with Warwick when the sheriff insisted that the commissioners cannot tell him what to pay his staff. The two argued briefly but then were interrupted by J. Anderson.
“We all want the deputies to be taken care of,” Anderson told Warwick. “Please submit something.”
Statutes on budget
In a series of emails received from County Co-Administrator Lyn Zimmer-Lambert as the result of a Colorado Open Records Act request, Zimmer-Lambert sent Crestone resident Lisa Cyriacks pages from the statutes regarding the budget matter. She first sent Cyriacks a condensed version of two statutes that applied to the situation, one stating that “the board shall approve the compensation for the undersheriff and deputy sheriffs appointed by the sheriff.”
Cyriacks pointed out that more specifically, CRS 30-2-106 reads: “In all counties the salaries of the undersheriff and deputy sheriff SHALL be fixed by the sheriff, with the approval of the board of county commissioners.” The emphasis is quite different, she wrote Zimmer-Lambert. Conflicting laws and their applications, however, are generally determined by a judge.
During his discussion with Warwick, Lovato said the statutes supporting his statement that Warwick is required to receive BoCC approval are contained in the county’s policy Manual, filed with the county clerk Jan. 16, 2016.
As a follow-up to her initial CORA request, Cyriacks requested a copy of the 2016 Saguache County Policies and Procedures with any amendments and corrections since its adoption Jan. 16, 2016 and also a copy of any classification and compensation plan that would specifically apply to the Sheriff’s Office.
Zimmer-Lambert sent her three pages of the county’s policy and procedures manual, explaining that the manual was not finished and was therefore confidential. On Feb. 14, a week following Cyriack’s requests, the county filed the introductory pages of the policy manual with the county clerk, and noted that the county’s intent was to file it Jan. 16, 2016. This means that at the time the sheriff’s office raises were pulled, the document was not yet filed. If not filed, no one could have known its content.
Cyriacks later obtained a Saguache County Personnel Manual dated 2007. This is the only other possible source of personnel information. The manual states: “The board of county commissioners may authorize surveys of compensation trends to enable the county to compare compensation rates with the market as a whole.”