The Sampson County Sheriff has been taking to social media to plead for funding to help alleviate a major staffing shortage. Sheriff Jimmy Thornton says he's afraid of losing more valuable employees, as the county hasn't been paying his office competitive salaries.
"The most frustrating thing is our commissioners and our county manager recognizes that we got a problem. But they haven't come up with a plan to resolve it," Thornton said.
In Facebook posts, the sheriff says the county detention center has seven vacancies. That's caused him to resort to unusual measures to fill spots and get county work done.
"I have to move people to make sure that where we're lacking in one area, we can accommodate in the other."
As a result, the sheriff has been taking deputies off the streets to monitor and escort inmates to court. Furthermore, animal control deputies have been tranferred to serve civil papers like child support documents. He says the understaffing and moving around is contributing to a backlog in processing records.
Thornton says the department has its most essential funds to operate--but notes that his staffers are being paid around $4,000 to $6,000 a year less than their contemporaries in other counties.
"I'm going to lose people," Sheriff Thornton said. "And I don't fault no one for wanting to go and better themselves to go and help their family. That's a no-brainer. But I've got a working group of people and they're deserving of every consideration possible."
In a statement, County Manager Ed Causey wrote:
"The commissioners and I fully support all county departments including the sheriff's department . (Including detention) We all value and are appreciative of law enforcement and the sacrifices that they make to ensure the safety of the public.
"I certainly agree that there are current circumstances that need attention. If you look at the progress that has been made over the last eighteen months, there has been a considerable effort to assist the sheriff and all employees in Sampson County."
Causey also said there have been numerous pay raises over the last 18 months.. However, Sheriff Thornton responded saying those raises were statewide and still failed to make his office's salaries competitive with other counties. Thornton says if the county commissioners really wanted to address the issue, the board could call a meeting and discuss expanding the budget.