County Asking Prior Magistrates To Return Money Paid Out "In Error" For Leave Time

  • Wednesday, September 5, 2018

County officials have asked four former magistrates to return money that was paid to them "in error" for unused leave time. The total amount sought is $31,409.46.

Officials said that beginning May 1, 2013, magistrates could no longer build up leave time that could be later cashed in. The new policy at that time was that magistrates had 10 days of paid leave, which must be used within the year's contract period or forfeited.

However, it was discovered by newly appointed Chief Magistrate Lorrie Miller that leave had continued to accrue and payouts made up to the present time.

Former Chief Magistrate Randy Russell is asked to return $13,396, and Sharetta Smith, who moved to Ohio, was asked to remit $3,946.

The county is seeking $6,472 from Nathaniel Goggins and $2,093 from Brandy Spurgin-Floyd. Ms. Spurgin-Floyd has advised the county, "Due to the terms of my contract, I did not expect that vacation time payment and did not count on it. Please accept this as my formal offer to voluntarily return any inadvertently paid or miscalculated vacation accrual received with my last paycheck."

Officials said current magistrate Ron Powers is listed with $12,241 in accumulated leave and Andrew Basler with $2,917. That has not been paid out and apparently will not be.

Chief Magistrate Miller said in a memo that on June 20 county Human Services Director Alecia Poe "said something about Randy Russell and Brandy Spurgin-Floyd being paid out. At that point I became concerned. Once the payouts were done and hit my budget I suddenly had an $11,000 deficit with another payroll period to fund. I panicked."

Ms. Miller was later told my county officials that her shortage "would be fixed."

She said, "I entirely blame Randy Russell for this issue. He was the one responsible to reconcile this discrepancy with payroll. He signed the same contract that clearly stated the use-it-or-lose-it language.

"He acted very evasive when I questioned him about the payroll questions I had. He was the one who entered the payroll each and every pay period and could clearly see the PTO listed and increasing each pay period. He knew how it worked."

Chief Magistrate Miller said Ms. Spurgin-Floyd and Magistrates Powers and Basler "worked tirelessly under terrible circumstances. Randy Russell routinely didn't offer anyone an opportunity to utilize any vacation time. If a magistrate wanted to take any time off, they typically worked other days to make up for it. If you wanted to take off the first week of the month, he just scheduled them more hours later in the month. Therefore, they never really got to take any actual time off."

She said the magistrates are required to attend continuing legal education training each year. She said none of that time counted toward the monthly required hours.

She stated, "The magistrates knew that we only have four magistrates to cover basically 24 hours. So they consistently covered for each other, worked extra hours, did whatever was needed to do a good job. They worked whatever hours were necessary to do the work knowing they were exempt and would never receive any overtime. 

"In addition, magistrates never receive any holiday pay despite working every holiday. The jail doesn't close for Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving or Mother's Day. Never.

"I certainly can't speak for other magistrates before this time period about their work ethic. However, in my opinion, it is terrible to penalize those magistrates who never really had a system in place that would allow them to utilize their vacation time because of a shortage of manpower and resources. Randy never advocated for his magistrates to come up with a better system considering the resources." 

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