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Overtime for school police termed excessive

ALBANY — Dougherty County taxpayers have paid out more than $859,000 in overtime for its school police force since the group was formed in 2010 — an amount that Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely and Dougherty County School System Administrative Assistant Jack Willis deem excessive.

The total averages almost $11,000 annually per officer, with some officers bringing in substantially more, according to Willis, who disclosed the overtime totals in response to a question from School Board member James Bush.

Willis said he and Police Chief Troy Conley have met following an operational assessment directed by former Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Gary Rothwell. The three-person team which handled the assessment was at the board’s regular meeting Monday night to answer questions.

The average salary per officer on the school force is roughly $30,000, Willis said. The board pays for another 38-40 percent of that total per officer in fixed costs. An extra 30 percent of the average salary figure is being paid in overtime, he said.

“The average officer carries home an additional $11,000 per year in overtime,” Willis said. “That is not well balanced. Some get considerably more than that and some considerably less. Some choose not to do overtime.”

When Bush questioned the validity of the overtime expenses, Willis said, “I am hard pressed to justify that. This is another area the chief and I have discussed, not in depth, but we are going to have to do that.

“I think that is excessive from a management standpoint.”

That opinion was shared by Mosely during an interview following the meeting. The overtime paid in 2010 was $225,640, Mosely said. That jumped to $236,871 in 2011 and was $232,563 in 2012. The total so far in 2013 is $164,783.

The assessment indicated the department has some problems in terms of organizational structure and perceptions of fairness.

“I think it was pretty clear in the report that we have a morale problem,” said Mosely. “I think it rated something like 3.4 on a scale of 10, and to me that indicates some unrest.”

Mosely asked Rothwell how the morale issue could be addressed.

Rothwell said one key element in improving morale would be an established system for promotions.

“You need to devise a promotion system that has criteria to meet in order to compete for a specific rank.” he said. “Then you have a fair process where those who meet the criteria can compete for a position.

“Even if the chief is fair, the current system leaves you open to criticism. There are no standards to measure someone. It kills morale when all you can do is hope you get promoted.”

The consultants also acknowledged the police department needs an additional person to handle clerical and administrative duties.

Apparently feeling that the discussion reflected unfavorably on School Police Chief Troy Conley, Milton “June Bug” Griffin came to the chief’s defense.

“Chief Conley has done everything we have asked him to do,” Griffin said. “I am totally supportive of Chief Conley.”

Mosely noted that the assessment is designed to improve the police department, not to pinpoint specific individual failures.

“There are none of us who cannot improve,” Mosely said. “You can be better board members. Our principals can be better and I can be better and our police can be better. That is what we are all about.

“The more we streamline and the better we make this system, the better quality of candidate (for superintendent) we will attract, and that is a fact. All we can do between now and then, the better it will be for the next person who comes in.

Mosely, who hired several new principals during the summer, said hiring the right people and having proper policies in place can make a difference in the school system.

“In six weeks, we’ve seen the difference individuals can make in the leadership in some of these schools,” Mosely said. “The difference is night and day. All you have to do is walk through to see.”

Board member Darrel Ealum did not attend the meeting because he was out of town on business.