WINCHESTER The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has exceeded its overtime budget for the current fiscal year by $475,000, and the county's Finance Committee wants to know why.

County Finance Director Cheryl Shiffler told the Finance Committee on Wednesday that the Sheriff’s Office budgeted $645,000 for overtime pay, but that amount was exceeded in December. As of May, the Sheriff’s Office had spent $1.12 million in overtime, she said.

“This is pretty serious when you run out of money in December,” Frederick County Treasurer Bill Orndoff told Sheriff Lenny Millholland, who was at the meeting.

Shiffler said overtime in the Sheriff's Office is up 40% up from last year. She said that while Millholland was able to make cuts to transfer money from other parts of his budget to pay for the additional overtime, there is expected to be an $80,000 shortfall for the remainder of the fiscal year. Although the committee recommended appropriating $80,000 to cover the shortfall, members wanted to know how the Sheriff's Office went so far over budget.

The Sheriff's Office has 150 employees, including uniformed personnel, administrative staff and several dispatchers who are classified as Sheriff's Office employees. 

Orndoff asked Millholland if he had an understanding of what employees are typically paid in overtime. Millholland said the amount depends on what they do.

“If you are one of my deputies I don’t say that you can only make X amount of overtime, because if you are out and you make a traffic stop and you get a fugitive out of the car and you have to work over two or three hours in order to process them, arrest them and everything else, you are going to have a different amount of overtime than another guy on the shift,” Millholland said.

“I was looking for pretty much a simple answer,” Orndoff said. “If I take 160 employees … plus the amount of money that you’ve spent this year, that’s almost $6,900 per employee calculated overtime.”

Orndoff also asked if overtime was scheduled. Millholland said it was not.

“What costs us overtime is what the Drug Task force does, what my [Internet Crimes Against Children] people do, what my investigators do,” Millholland said. “That is what generates the overtime. We don’t just pick it out of the sky and say, ‘I’m going to let you work today to give you overtime.’”

The Sheriff's Office received 80,648 calls for service in 2019. Millholland said the Sheriff’s Office has received 8,000 more calls for service this year compared to the same time last year.

Finance Committee Chairwoman and Stonewall District Supervisor Judith McCann-Slaughter asked Millholland what constitutes calls for service. In previous years, some Board of Supervisors members have been critical of the Sheriff’s Office for doing security checks and responding to non-emergency calls.

Millholland told her that emergency dispatchers receive calls for service from the public and the Sheriff’s Office responds to them. Often, the Sheriff’s Office can’t assess if something is an emergency until they arrive on the scene, he said.

“I can’t help the amount of calls and the kind of calls that we get,” Millholland said.

County Attorney Roderick Williams previously told the Board of Supervisors that responding to calls is generally considered a law enforcement function and that there is a legal gray area in terms of what the Sheriff’s Office must respond to.

McCann-Slaughter wondered if Sheriff's Office employees who have worked a certain amount of hours could take time off to avoid accruing excessive overtime.

County Administrator Kris Tierney, who was also at the meeting, replied that the Sheriff’s Office still has to fill that position for the day.

Orndoff expressed concern about Sheriff's Office employees becoming accustomed to overtime pay. He said he would like to see a list of employees who are often subject to overtime, with their base salary and overtime pay. He also wondered if a policy could be developed that would limit the amount of overtime a Sheriff’s Office employee could work.

Tierney said the problem is fundamentally a budgeting issue.

“We are here because the sheriff’s budget didn’t have enough money in it to accommodate the overtime that he’s incurred,” Tierney said. “If he had anticipated that overtime and budgeted for it, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So fundamentally I think a part of this is an issue of budget knowledge, monitoring the budget, being aware of the budget, where you are in the budget. Unfortunately, I think we are set right now to have a similar issue next year. So from my perspective, we need to get a handle on what’s generating the overtime, and we need to be convinced that it’s legitimate, and I have no reason to think that it isn’t.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, the committee requested that county staff work with Millholland on determining the factors contributing to overtime and finding ways to reduce it.

— Contact Josh Janney at jjanney@winchesterstar.com

(12) comments

soulmates

I do not understand the confusion. If an Officer answers a call and then has to do an investigation they cannot just look at their watch and clock out. Even if there was someone else available to handle, defense lawyers would have a field day in court with that method. Instead of the blame game and pointing finger like children. Get some unbiased fair minded folks in a room and find out if the overtime was justified. If it was then obviously it should be paid. Officers are not paid that well for risking their lives as it is so strapping them more is a bad solution. The good ones will go to places where the pay is better.

I don't see how the Sheriff is going to anticipate exactly how many crimes are going to be committed in the future. Mr. Orndoff reviewed the Sheriff's budget and if he thought is was light he should have advised. As a resident of the county I do not want our police, fire or rescue squads strapped for monies nor do I want them to waste. If that cannot be done without raising taxes then so be it but there should be no fluff or pet projects. I think it is enough of a burden on our officers to be second guessed on methods employed in the performance of their duties. Especially when they have to make life or death decisions in a split second only to be judged by folks who think their hindsight is 20/20. The Sheriff is elected base on his 27 years of experience as a police officer not as an accountant or treasurer. I think Mr. Orndoff has some accountability for the deficit as well. He also should have been monitoring how much being spent each month. A simple monthly chart showing projected spending and actual is the best I have found in my work. Just fix it!!!

Conservative

Well, if there's so much work that you have to pay people time and a half to cover that work, maybe you need more employees.

Bryan.the.Nuri

Being an avid scanner listener, I do hear quite a few calls where sheriffs are basically backing up parents, even before the shutdown. However, they must respond to all calls, lest the one they ignore be the one that escalates past control.

The simple fact is that this county is strapped for cash because they aren't taking in enough.

CTJINVA

"county is strapped for cash because they aren't taking in enough." If you read the article, you would see that your comment is not germane to the issue at hand. The department didn't budget enough, didn't manage to the budget, and didn't alert anyone when the budget amount was nearing the max for the year. It seems as though some folks in the County are asleep at the switch, because these sound like basic budget management issues.

gscott

It would be nice if the candidates running for Supervisor this November would weigh in on this issue. I am tired of not knowing where they stand until **after** they get elected.

gscott

I think the tax payers of this county deserve answers and some accountability for a change.

Fatherx6

Obviously Orndoff does not have a clue how law enforcement works. overtime is caused by unforeseen circumstances. In law enforcement you may encounter that incident at any moment. Here is a suggestion, get rid of Orndoff and his idiotic questions and use his salary to cover the overage.

Steve Cunningham

So the County Treasurer is not allowed to do his job in 'unforeseen circumstances'? I appreciate the Treasurer looking out for the taxpayers. There is no issue with asking questions when a department goes half a million dollars over budget.

CTJINVA

Honestly, it seems as though Orndoff is the only one who understands budget management. Why hasn't the Sheriff been managing to his budget? Why didn't he alert other officials when it appeared that calls had increased (and thus more $$ would be needed)? Why isn't the county budget staff looking at this closely? Why didn teh the Sherriff ask for more money when it appeared that they would exceed their budget BEFORE THEY EXCEEDED it? There seems to be a lot of malfeasance and sloppy budget management happening here. In my opinion, it's time for the lot of them to go, as budget management is a basic take of a Department of Agency head.

Doc Samson

That does seem like a pretty straight forward solution...

soulmates

Well said and I agree.

ginamcintire

Maybe law enforcement doesn’t understand basic budgeting concepts. Nobody is proficient in every area so who was supposed to be keeping the Sheriff up to date on budget issues.

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