Shoar used poor judgment on pay adjustments
At a time when St. Johns County's general government has put off pay raises to employees and forced each one, including the senior administrators, to take furloughs, Sheriff David Shoar gave $1,000 to each of his 500 employees as a pay adjustment. But, he didn't take one himself, just as he says he has not taken any pay raises.
He gave the money to his employees, he says, because they had not had raises the past two years and he was obligated to them.
Furthermore, he said, there is still money left over to give the county $500,000 to 800,000 from this past fiscal year. That's over and above the money he just gave to his staff. According to the sheriff, last year when the department gave back $3 million in budgeted expense savings from the previous year, his employees asked why they did not get any of it for raises. So this year, he decided to give a pay adjustment with the savings.
While it is understandable that Shoar wants to support his employees, he seems to forget that general county employees other than firefighters, have not had raises either. And county employees, other than SJCSO employees and firefighters, were forced to take five furlough days to save the county and taxpayers $800,000. The sheriff's decision has created a fire storm among other county employees.
Shoar made a strategic mistake in this process. He admits he should have told County Administrator Michael Wanchick in advance. We agree. Perhaps, Shoar said, they could have worked something out for both departments. We're sure they could.
Shoar does not have to explain to any county official how he spends his budget money. He just has to have the county approve the amount he says he needs to operate his department.
The sheriff's office is like the county's Clerk of the Court, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector and Supervisor of Elections whose budgets are approved by the County Commission, but are constitutional officers themselves.
"It was not a reckless decision," Shoar said Thursday night.
Maybe not. But not telling the County Administrator before he heard the rumor was, in our opinion, poor judgment, especially after all the effort to keep the public informed about the financial situation of county government.
Spending tax dollars is an awesome responsibility because the money is our money, drawn from those shrinking property tax dollars we pay annually.
Shoar's decision was perfectly legal. He did not violate the letter of the law. Pay adjustments are legal and they are taxed.
If Shoar does give back $500,000 to $800,000, the county will have some tough choices. There's now a whole lot of morale issues with county employees that need shoring up.