If the citizens of Berkeley County needed a sign the current Sheriff doesn’t take his job seriously, all they had to do was attend the Berkeley County Council budget meeting last night. We received emails from several citizens who were present to let us know what happened.
As we all know, the personnel situation at the Hill-Finklea Detention Center and the unused 10 million dollar jail have been a big issue in the run-up to the June 10th election for Berkeley County Sheriff. We have written a couple of pieces on the dangerous under-staffing at the jail and the recent departures of quite a few employees. Those departures are result of low pay, low morale, dangerous working conditions and overall mismanagement and neglect by the current Sheriff. That is a sign of serious problems in the agency.
We found most citizens of Berkeley County have no idea that jail personnel are working a lot of mandatory overtime due to personnel shortages. That would normally be a good thing and would contribute to detention officers increasing their income. Unfortunately, BCSO pays what is known as “Chinese overtime”.
What is Chinese overtime? Well, let’s say your base pay is $10 an hour. Under the Chinese overtime method, your first hour of overtime is paid at $10.00. Depending on the entity administering the overtime the second hour of overtime pay might be $9.00. The third hour is paid at $8.00 and so on. Depending on the percentage used, by the time an employee has worked ten to twenty hours of overtime that employee is working for free. Another version of this forces employees to work unpaid overtime with the promise of accrued “comp time” to be issued at the employer’s discretion at a later date. In a case of continuing personnel shortages like those at BCSO, the comp time never materializes. In effect, employees have “donated” hours and hours to the employer.
Those who have lived in the Charleston area for a long time may remember several other departments that used the same method of overtime pay - until the employees banded together and sued. That is a sign of serious problems to come.
Citizens recently discovered Sheriff Dewitt was telling some “untruths” when it came to the issue of requesting personnel to staff the jail. It seems he actually failed to act on that personnel issue until very recently when he found he had two people challenging him for the job he has held for twenty years with little effort.
This is what happens when politicians feel they are entitled to their position. This a sign that a politician is no longer effective.
According to our citizen sources, Sheriff Dewitt displayed his contempt yet again Monday evening. When the budget committee met to discuss the issues of funding for additional personnel necessary to staff the new jail and how to replace those detention officers who have recently moved on - Sheriff Dewitt was nowhere to be found.
The Sheriff didn’t even deign it necessary to instruct a subordinate to attend the meeting. In fact, no one from BCSO bothered to show up. So much for being available to answer questions and justify a funding request to the very people charged with evaluating and possibly granting that request.
Not only does this failure to appear and deal with an extremely important issue demonstrate a lack of a sense of urgency and a lack of respect for County Council on the part of Sheriff Dewitt, it clearly demonstrates the contemptuous attitude with which he views the taxpayers of Berkeley County.
It will be interesting to see if the citizens of Berkeley County are satisfied with the status quo.