Sarpy County will pay almost $200,000 to settle claims of unpaid overtime by 14 commanders in the Sheriff's Office.
The Sarpy County Fraternal Order of Police and 14 officers filed a claim against the county in 2011, protesting a practice in which officers were required to stay in the office after their shifts had ended. But they weren't paid for the time.
“There had been a practice from years before, a prior sheriff, where certain people who worked in the office would have to stay an extra 45 minutes past their shift because of the office hours,” Sarpy County Deputy Attorney Mike Smith said.
The practice was revealed when an unrelated union grievance was filed in January 2011, and it was stopped immediately, Chief Deputy Mike Jones said.
On a 4-0 vote Tuesday, the County Board approved a settlement of $167,255, including $15,000 in legal fees for the law firm of Dowd, Howard and Corrigan, which represented the officers — five captains and eight lieutenants.
Because the payments are being treated as lost wages, the actual cost to the county will be higher, said Fred Uhe, accounting manager for the Sarpy County Clerk's Office. Factoring in payroll and pension costs, the county will end up paying $191,936.
John Corrigan, a partner at the law firm, said the practice probably dated to the mid-1980s, but officers could claim wages owed only since 2008.
“They just want to get paid for their time,” he said.
The claim also included a civilian employee: Dick Shea, director of the county juvenile justice center. Shea is covered under a different union contract but was included in the claim because he is classified as a captain, Jones said.
Board member Don Kelly of Papillion abstained from voting, saying the settlement “makes my stomach churn a little bit.”
He said the commanders deserve to be paid for their time, but he plans to scrutinize future collective-bargaining agreements more closely.
“They're good guys,” he said. “They are. But we've got a bad agreement if that allows something like that to occur.”
The county had estimated that its liability could be as high as $400,000, so the money was added to this year's budget.
Smith said it took two years to reach a settlement because the claim was “complicated by how the (commanders) get paid.”
“We really had to go through every day” to determine what each commander had worked, he said.
Contact the writer: