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‘Favored’ officer at jail got ‘unusual’ overtime payments

A lieutenant in the jail corrections department who some workers have said gets preferential treatment from the sheriff, has received an unusually high amount of overtime pay.
Andrea Barham was paid $3,634 in overtime (before taxes and other employee deductions) from January through Sept. 3 in 2004. Her regular hourly pay, $11.46, totaled $16,478 for the same time period. She also earned $1,000 for holiday pay.
The amount in overtime represents significantly more than is usually paid to workers in that department and/or police on patrol, according to Harrison County Auditor Pat Wolfe, whose office handles payroll. ‘That’s what the records are showing,’ said Wolfe.
Sheriff G. Michael Deatrick, whose routine responsibility includes the corrections department at the jail at the Harrison County Justice Center in Corydon, asked for, and the county council approved, an additional $5,000 in July for overtime payments. As of Monday, that line item has a balance of $1,335 for the rest of the year, according to auditor Wolfe’s payroll clerk.
The Harrison County Employee Handbook of Personnel Policies (adopted earlier this year by the commissioners and effective March 1) says overtime is to be paid to employees who are entitled to it at the rate of 1-1/2 times their hourly rate.
‘Overtime work subject to compensation must be approved in advance by the department head and is to be limited to emergency and special conditions creating its absolute necessity,’ the personnel policy says on page 7.
Employees who are ‘generally management and senior professional staff’ are exempt from overtime and can expect to work extra hours without compensation, the policy says.
The sheriff could not be reached for comment this past week and did not return several phones calls. In September, corrections department employees took their complaints directly to the commissioners. They complained of ‘hostile, chaotic treatment’ they had received from Barham, who is a lieutenant in the department and second in command at the jail.
They said she received favoritism from the sheriff and she does not follow the rules.
Barham was then reassigned to the control room in the jail, but others in the department complained that she continues to give orders to the jail staff.
Barham’s overtime pay included two time sheets she signed herself as the employee and department head. The check for July 23 included $721.98 in overtime; the other, dated Aug. 6, included $464.13 in overtime pay.
Barham declined an opportunity to explain how she accrued the overtime or why it was necessary. She said yesterday, ‘You talk to my lawyer.’ She did not say who that is. ‘Have a nice day,’ she said, and hung up the phone.
County attorney Chris Byrd said, ‘Typically, that should not happen. It would not be a good internal control to have in the department. If the State Board of Accounts looks at those particular time sheets, I am sure they would bring it up to be addressed.’
In two other instances, the sheriff signed the time sheet with Barham, once for $395.37 for the May 14 payroll, and another payroll time sheet Aug. 20 for $275.04.
A corrections department worker, who talked on condition they not be identified, said when Barham completed her shift each day, she instructed the oncoming staff to call her if ‘anything unusual’ happens, such as a fight between inmates. In that case, she would return to the jail ‘to handle it.’
J.R. Eckart, chair of the board of county commissioners, said, ‘We have been working with Mike to try to straighten out the problems. We have pretty well gone as far as we can without breaking into an area in the law that’s not clear. The commissioners have no intention of going in there and running the sheriff’s department.’
Eckart said he thinks the sheriff will handle the situation ‘appropriately.’ ‘I think he’s got some personnel issues he really has to concentrate on … the commissioners have limited authority over the sheriff’s department.’