Augusta Commission member Marion Williams, one of five commissioners who lacked a sixth vote to pass the increases Monday, returned the item to next Tuesday’s commission meeting agenda.
“It’s the right thing to do. We’ve got the largest sheriff’s department in the state,” Williams said. “In Atlanta, they’ve got a sheriff who makes $160,000 a year, and he just operates the jail.”
Elected last year, Sheriff Richard Roundtree and Solicitor Kellie Kenner-McIntyre wrote letters to City Administrator Fred Russell in early January offering justification for the amount of pay each is seeking beyond the minimums set by local legislation of $110,000 and $97,000, respectively.
In Roundtree’s letter, which he distributed to the commissioners Thursday, he cites the department’s new initiatives already in the works, such as attaining accreditation and implementing a citizens advisory board and community policing. He goes on to describe his law enforcement background and education, including a master’s degree in psychology and counseling from Troy State University.
“In a salary analysis, I am asking you to consider my duties/responsibilities and qualifications as compared to other county agency heads along with their salaries,” Roundtree wrote. “I would also ask you to consider that a salary of $126,500 is very comparable to other sheriff’s offices and police departments across the region.”
Williams said he had been warned that denying the requests might be setting the city up for litigation.
“If we don’t do this, we can be sued,” he said.
Votes on the increases failed, 5-4, at Monday’s meeting, with Commissioner Grady Smith absent. Smith has said he will be present Tuesday, and Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who can break a 5-5 tie, has a Monday speaking engagement at a four-day conference in Phoenix and might not be present.
Commissioner Bill Lockett, who voted Monday for the increases, said the officials’ credentials, not length of service, and the salaries of other city department heads warrant the supplements.
“It’s fair and equitable when you compare it with the duties and responsibilities of other department heads,” Lockett said.