published Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Sheriff saga continues at Hamilton County commission meeting

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Hamilton County Corrections Officer Jonathan Walker appeared before county commissioners this morning to ask for a raise — something most of the department’s staff hasn’t had in four years.

Walker, a 6-year department veteran, cited problems in the jail such as corrections turnover, one or more mandatory overtime shifts a week, and understaffed shifts.

“We asked the sheriff several years now for a raise,” Walker said. But Sheriff Jim Hammond told officers he couldn’t give raises, only the county commission could, Walker said.

County Commissioner Fred Skillern explained to Walker that the sheriff is a constitutional officer who is responsible for his own budget. Commissioners just appropriate the money, he said.

“I feel, and maybe other people feel the same, that we have given sufficient money,” Skillern said. “At least some people got very good raises in the area you work in.”

Last week Skillern handed out a list of salary increases among three top administrators.

One of them, Ron Parson, who currently oversees the jail, was hired in 2006 at $44,990 a year and currently makes $71,455 a year after a series of eight pay adjustments. Last year he was promoted to jail supervisor after the Times Free Press reported that internal affairs records showed he had a jailer complete college coursework for him.

“I was just told that you all were the ones that gave the raises,” Walker said.

Commissioner Greg Beck, who spent about 10 years as a corrections officer, said he sympathizes with the officers.

“If we gave you $10 million more dollars, probably the raise that you’re asking for would not get to you,” Beck said.

Walker said after the meeting that he is a member of a group considering whether to file a grievance against the sheriff in Chancery Court.

Walker said he realizes he might have put his job on the line by appearing this morning.

“I’m scared to death,” he said. “But it’s got to be done. Somebody has to stand up for the department.”

Still, Walker said he supports Hammond.

Contact staff writer Ansley Haman at ahaman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6481.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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