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Sheriff challenges county on salary issue
Seeking to pay recent hire more
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper has filed notice of potential action in court against the county government over a salary dispute.

The letter states that the county manager and personnel services director have “refused to pay an employee of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office the salary she was offered when hired by Sheriff Piper.”

The pay is within the salary range of the position’s grade; the employee has the experience and education to justify the salary; and the compensation is about $2,000 less than what the previous person in the job earned, according to the letter, which was signed by the sheriff’s attorney.

However, county policy states that when an employee moves to a position of a lower pay grade, his or her salary must decrease by the difference in the minimum for that grade.

The employee in question moved from a grade 32 in a county government position to a grade 27 to in the sheriff’s office, according to personnel services director Pat Carson.

The minimum salaries for those positions, respectively, are about $63,500 and $52,600, she said.

The maximum for a grade 27 is about $77,300. However, Carson said a new hire from outside of county government would have to be hired on at the minimum per policy.

The sheriff’s office notice argues that as a constitutional officer, Piper has discretion over his allotted budget.

“The sheriff simply wants his budget expenditure requests to be processed by the county as he directs, which is his legal right,” the letter states.

“Our client expects the county to follow the well-established law that protects the independence of his office from certain forms of encroachment by the county government.”

The sheriff hopes the issue can be resolved without legal action, according to the letter, but also believes a court would grant his request to order the county to allow him to pay the salary he offered the employee.

Since he filed an ante litem notice, or one indicating potential court action, county commissioners took action Thursday to waive County Attorney Ken Jarrard from the case. Jarrard also represents the sheriff in certain matters.

Jarrard said he will hire counsel for the county at the same rate he charges.

Commissioners are allowed by law to discuss the situation in executive session, since it involves potential litigation. But without counsel, they did not intend to during Thursday’s closed meeting.