Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sheriff shoe horns new hires, promotions - in budget

Sheriff Thomas Parnell McNamara, Jr.

Spectacular demotions, raises abound amid fandango's dust 

Waco – Word on the street has it that when the new Sheriff in town and his Chief Deputy arrived at department headquarters to take over, there was no furniture in their offices.

No desks, no chairs, no filing cabinets. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Chief Deputy Wm. Matt Cawthon
That didn't stop Sheriff Thomas Parnell McNamara, Jr., and Chief Deputy William M. Cawthon, a well-seasoned Deputy U.S. Marshal-in-Charge and a retired Texas Ranger, if there really is any such thing, from making some moves – pronto – to put men and women they favor in charge of a newly reorganized department.

That includes elimination of 8 top administrator jobs, at least 16 promotions through either salary raises or reclassifications that pay about $5,000 more per year in most cases, and 13 demotions from positions of high responsibility by as much as three lower pay grades.

In four cases, the Sheriff reclassified vacant positions by lowering the salaries to entry level, or, in one case, making a modest increase in pay, and applying the difference to slots he raised in pay.

It appears Mssrs. McNamara and Cawthon were aiming to clean house.

The deal is this.

They did it all within the overall budget laid out for this fiscal year.

Predictably, that drew kudos from the folks who hold the purse strings – the McLennan County Commissioners Court.

The new look and the new way is a leaner, better-paid department that includes a long absent narcotics division, new investigators promoted from the ranks, and dedicated to solving old cases - cold cases - a new line-up at the jail, and in the crucial area of courthouse security.

Here are some of the highlights gleaned from the Court's records, which approved the changes with only one dissenting vote.

The lone Democrat on the Court, Commissioner Lester Gibson, protested that the moves are contrary to County personnel policies because in many cases salaries exceeded the budgeted amount for the individual positions, and they were not advertised for outside applicants.

Interim County Judge Scott Felton and the other three commissioners made no objection. They all made statements that said it's okay to do what you have to do when you get yourself elected to run a constitutional office with an annual multi-million-dollar budget – as long as you keep coloring within the lines of the overall spending plan.

In all but a very, very few cases - meaning the top slots of Sheriff and Chief Deputy - new hires were made from within the department.

Job one still pays the same – at an annual salary of $95,338.74. Sheriff McNamara said many times on the campaign trail that he does not intend to accept a $12,000 annual corporate stipend to supervise and inspect lock-ups maintained and operated by CEC, Inc., the private New Jersey corporation that built and continues to operate the Jack Harwell Detention Center at a deficit.

“I don't think it's right to profit from someone else's demise,” he said – on more than one occasion. Looks like he means it.

Chief Deputy Cawthon, who quit a job very similar to the one held by legendary Ranger Frank Hamer after he retired and went to work for TDC chasing down such notorious ex-convicts as Clyde Barrow, will be paid $85,770 per year – an increase of $5,887.16 over the $79,882.84 previously paid his predecessor, Randy Plemons.

Deputy Plemons is moving on to Denton County after losing a bitter primary race to Sheriff McNamara by a wide margin.

There are more spectacular promotions, to be sure.

Former Corporal Morris R. Colyer received a promotion to Captain Sheriff, and a rise in salary from $48,832.92 to $66,079.94 for an increase of $17,249.02. Lt. Christopher R. Eubanks received a more modest raise to $60,353.22 from his former salary of $58,916.10.

Field Deputy Stephen Smith will serve Sheriff McNamara as a Captain at an annual salary of $66,019.94, up $14,323.39 from $51,756.55 per annum. Investigator Shawn Lippe is now a Captain at the annual salary of $66,097.94 – up $18.414.90 from $47,665.04.

Investigator Benjamin Toombs, who has been working for $47,665.05 per year, hired in as the chief of Courthouse Security at $56,649.37 annual salary.

He replaced Sgt. William E. Gorham, whose salary Sheriff McNamara cut three pay grades from $56,649.37 to $43,178.76.

Similarly, Deputy Kathleen Daniel experienced a cut in pay as a courthouse security officer from $43,178.99 to $36,041.52.

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