Mobile County Sheriff’s Office employees have worked 700,000 overtime hours since 2018

Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson calls for audit amid projected deficit
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 5:43 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Employees at the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office have logged more than 700,000 overtime hours since the start of 2018, according to records provided Thursday to FOX10 News.

Financial data show that the Sheriff’s Office already has blown through its overtime budget for the entire fiscal year and is projected to run a deficit. That has prompted County Commissioner Connie Hudson to call for an independent audit.

“The overtime numbers have exceeded the numbers that were put into our budget that were for the entire year at this point,” Hudson said.

Ordinarily, the Alabama Department of the Examiners of Public Accounts would conduct such a review. But this is auditing season, and the agency is busy, the District 2 commissioner said. So she said county staff is looking for a private firm to produce an expedited work.

Hudson cited recent reports of large overtime reports, including by a now-former sergeant facing unrelated criminal charges. She said she wants to get a fuller picture of the department’s finances as the Commission begins preparing the budget for the fiscal year that stats Oct. 1.

“It would just behoove us with some of the issues that have come out here recently to get a better inside view of the processes and the finances,” she said.

Lori Myles, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, said Sheriff Paul Burch had no comment.

“We are going to let the audit speak for itself,” she wrote to FOX10 News. “We have been in communication with her and we knew she was going to ask for one.”

Daniel Holifield has been charged with theft, based on allegations that he forged names to acquire vehicles in the department’s impound lot, which he oversaw as sergeant. Last week, Mobile County District Attorney Keith Blackwood confirmed last week that his office also is looking into whether Holifield improperly billed overtime.

Regardless of the outcome of that probe, there’s no doubting that he racked up a lot of it – more than 2,600 hours last year. That made him the county’s highest-paid employee.

But it was not just Holifield. Since Jan. 1, 2018, Mobile County Metro Jail employees collectively have earned more than 340,000 overtime hours. Employees for the rest of the Sheriff’s Office have earned more than 370,000 hours. The combined total of 717,460 overtime hours comes to almost $25 million.

Overtime hours in recent months have been driving red ink. Mobile County financial records show that by the end of April, the Sheriff’s Office already had spent $115,022 more than the overtime budget for all of fiscal year 2023. At that rate, the department would finish with an overtime deficit of almost $1.9 million.

A year-by-year breakdown shows overtime at the Sheriff’s Department surged in 2022. Non-jail employees at the department averaged 61,739 hours per year from 2018 through 2021. That jumped to 85,830 last year and is on a pace to exceed that by the end of this calendar year.

Metro Jail averaged more than 90,000 hours in 2018 and 2019 but dipped below 25,000 the following year. Since then, they have been on the rise, hitting 74,354 last year. Overtime at the jail is running at a similar pace this year.

Myles previously has said Burch already has put in place additional controls to prevent future overtime abuses. But she has pointed out that overtime is unavoidable for a law enforcement agency. Jailers, for instance, work longer shifts, which builds guaranteed overtime into their pay.

Hudson said that may well be true. But she said an audit would indicate whether savings are possible and if there are internal controls that the sheriff has not thought of.

“(If) we need to increase the amount of money (for overtime) based on those numbers, then that’s what we’ll do,” she said. “But we want that level of comfort and confidence in the numbers to do that.”