GCSO requests funding increase from commissioners for pay raise

A. Marie Hamilton/Torrington Telegram Goshen County Sheriff Office (GCSO) Sheriff Kory Fleenor, left, and GCSO Lt. Wesley Deen made another request to fund a severely underfunded department to retain and recruit officers to keep Goshen County safe. Also pictured is Commissioner Aaron Walsh.

Commissioners vow to seek way to increase officer pay

GOSHEN COUNTY – Goshen County Sheriff Office (GCSO) Kory Fleenor and GCSO Lt. Wesley Deen made another plea with the newly sworn-in Goshen County Commissioners to help secure more funding for the underfunded department so it could retain, recruit officers in an effort to keep the county safe.

Fleenor and Deen stated although they would be grateful for any additional funding to give current officers a raise in an effort to retain them and potentially recruit future officers, the department believes a $3-$5 raise would be most beneficial.

According to Fleenor, GCSO officers are the lowest paid sheriff’s department in Wyoming.

In a joint law enforcement and sheriff deputy salary report from Indeed.com and Salary.com, based on salary details provided in various Wyoming sheriff departments, published December 2022, deputies can expect to make $29,100 to $114,700 per a year.

Each department is required by Wyoming statute to publish departmental salaries by the end of December each year. Several departments statewide have already done so and published their final reports.

A current GCSO deputy posting on Indeed.com, which was confirmed by Deen and Fleenor during the commissioners meeting, indicates GCSO deputies start at $15.33 an hour. This amounts to roughly $2,453 a month, or roughly $32,000 a year, and is currently funded by the county and other various funding programs.

According to this report, GCSO deputies are paid 35% below the national average for similarly sized departments and tenures, however, the report marks this pay scale as the average range due to budgetary constraints most counties are facing due to a number of reasons, including reasons relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When compared to other sheriff’s departments nearby:

Laramie County Sheriff Office (LCSO) deputies make $3,223 to $4,361 per month, or roughly $20.10 to $27.25 an hour, or roughly $38,676 to $52,332 a year.

Platte County Sheriff Office (PCSO) deputies make $2,960 to $3,520 per month, or roughly $18.50 to $22 an hour, or roughly $35,500 to $42,240 a year.

Niobrara County Sheriff Office (NCSO) deputies make $2,742 to $4,160 per month, or roughly $17.15 to $26 an hour, or roughly $32,900 to $49,920 a year.

Scotts Bluff County Sheriff Office (SBCSO) deputies make $2,833 to $3,833 per month, or roughly $35.42 to $48 per hour, or roughly $34,000 to $46,000 a year.

Crook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and Teton County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) are among the state’s highest paid departments. CCSO pays its deputies a range of $53,000 to $55,865 a year, while TCSO pays its deputies a range of $57,000 to $61,212 a year.

Essentially, GCSO deputies make $2 to $32 less than other departments nearby and around the state. In order to be competitive, GCSO would need to be able to pay its officers a minimum salary of roughly $38,400, or roughly $20 an hour, according to the joint report previously mentioned.

“We have a safety concern here,” Deen told commissioners at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting. “We need more money to work here – and we, our department, are responsible for a lot: we do things like keep the county out of lawsuits in addition to our regular job requirements of serving our communities, protecting them and enforcing the laws as well as keeping the jail running.”

Fleenor and Deen explained to commissioners how the on-going salary restraints routinely causes the department to lose officers to other agencies able and willing to pay their officers more.

“When I first brought this before commissioners, we initially asked for a $1 raise,” Deen told commissioners. “Then, this fall – just a few months ago – I asked commissioners for a $3 raise, just to be somewhat competitive. However, today, we are asking for a $5 raise to simply be able to keep our department operable and employed.”

The sheriff and lieutenant explained to Goshen County Commissioner Chairman Michael McNamee, Vice Chairman Justin Burkart and Commissioner Aaron Walsh, how the sheriff’s department is operating on a skeleton crew and able to keep its nose above water simply by being willing to work with other agencies to house inmates at the Goshen County Jail along with fulfilling federal inmate contract. Programs both Fleenor and Deen believe could be in jeopardy as the department continues to lose qualified deputies to other agencies over pay concerns.

“I think when we have guys quitting us – then walking a block across the street (to apply at Torrington Police Department, TPD) for essentially a $5 raise – I think that’s a problem,” Fleenor explained to commissioners. “Both the Lingle Police Department and Fort Laramie Police Department also earn far more than we do an hour. We cannot compete with this and if we continue to lose officers to openings at nearby departments, it can very quickly become a safety concern.”

“(TPD) Chief (Matt Johnson) so kindly gave me their pay scale,” Fleenor further explained to commissioners. “They start their officers out at $23 an hour, with dispatch starting out at $19.50 an hour and max out at $27.50 an hour.”

Deen interjected, “Even TPD’s dispatchers get paid higher than our sheriff’s deputies.”

Adding, “Some even make more than our own Sheriff does – he is also the lowest paid sheriff in the state.”

The previously mentioned joint report also reported Sheriff Fleenor at GCSO is the lowest paid elected sheriff in Wyoming; Fleenor makes nearly $61,000 a year according to a Goshen County Elected Salary report produced by the county in September.

According to a Goshen County Commissioners Resolution #2022-04, which former Goshen County Commissioner Chairman John Ellis, Vice Chair Cody Cox and Commissioner Justin Burkart signed on May 21, 2022, as it relates to salaries of county officers and deputies, pay raises were supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

The May 2022 resolution reads:

“A resolution establishing the salaries of county officers and their deputies for a period of four years beginning January 1, 2023 and continuing through December 31, 2026.

Whereas pursuant to Wyoming Statute (W.S.) §18-3-107 the annual salaries of certain county officers and their deputies must be set at this time; and

Whereas the Goshen County Commissioners having assessed the work and obligations of each of the county officers, and considered the anticipated future revenues of Goshen County;

Now therefore be it resolved by the Goshen County Commissioners, that pursuant to W.S. §18-3-107, the salaries of the county assessor, county and prosecuting attorney, county clerk, clerk of district court, county sheriff, county treasurer, county commissioners, and county coroner, be and the same are hereby set to commence from and after January 1, 2023 and continue through December 31, 2025.”

At that time, commissioners agreed to pay Goshen County assessor, clerk, district court clerk, treasurer and sheriff the following salary:

$64,450 from Jan. 1, 2023 through Dec. 31, 2023.

$64,450 from Jan. 1, 2024 through Dec. 31, 2024.

$66,950 from Jan. 1, 2025 through Dec. 31, 2025.

$68,000 From Jan. 1, 2026 through Dec. 31, 2026.

However, commissioners had not set any resolution or request for a salary study for GCSO deputies to be given a pay raise, until Tuesday’s meeting when McNamee and Burkart both requested Fleenor and Deen to provide these reports the next time the department appears before commissioners.

Burkart asked Fleenor and Deen, “Do you see a potential to house more federal and state inmates?”

To which Deen responded, “Yes – we have a contract with Colorado, we have a contract with the U.S. Marshals and we have a contract with (Wyoming) Department of Corrections.”

However, even if the county took in more inmates from the various agencies it contracts with, which pays a higher per diem rate per inmate to help pay GCSO for its services, Fleenor and Deen believe “it’s pushing the envelope” as it relates to safety concerns.

McNamee responded and said, “I think probably the greatest fear you have – and if I hear you right – your frustration is the fact that this isn’t the first time you’ve presented this to the county commissioners, correct?”

Adding, “So I think I speak for other commissioners when I say that it is something that obviously – it’s got to be addressed.”

McNamee said the question now becomes how does the county move forward in allocating more funding to GCSO to not only cover its expenses, but also allow for pay raises to be competitive to ensure the department does not suffer further setbacks.

“That would be my commitment to you (GCSO) that we will continue to look at any and all numbers that we can,” McNamee explained to Fleenor and Deen. “I know, I for one don’t want to see a sheriff’s department that is completely depleted because of the fact that we can’t compensate for the good people we have there and what it takes to run a successful department.”

Adding, “How do we attract new people to come in – especially in the event that people are leaving the department for higher paying positions and so, I think you can rest assured our commitment to look into it deeper, to find out what we can do about it and move forward from there.”

The commissioners requested Fleenor and Deen present at its next monthly meeting with the commissioners a salary study for competitive pay to help move the discussion along quicker. Fleenor and Deen agreed to have it done before the next meeting and stated the department would be sure to give the study to commissioners at least a week prior to the meeting so they could formulate a plan prior to the meeting.

“As soon as we get that report – we can begin working on this and get the department more funding,” Walsh told Fleenor and Deen.

Fleenor and Deen also presented the monthly GCSO earnings and commissary reports.

Lastly, as part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between GCSO, TPD and Goshen County School District (GCSD), Fleenor asked the commissioners to approve a vehicle lease agreement.

GCSD Superintendent Ryan Kramer approached TPD Chief Matt Johnson regarding employing a school resource officer (SRO) at LaGrange and Southeast Schools. Together, the three agencies worked out a temporary MOU for TPD to provide its part-time officer, a retired GCSO deputy, SRO Alex Irons. GCSD board members approved the MOU at its meeting earlier this month.

The current MOU, which required county commissioners approval, provides SRO Irons with a GCSO vehicle to travel between Torrington and the two southernmost schools as he performs the scope of his new position.

County commissioners approved the MOU and applauded both Fleenor and Johnson for working diligently in answering a need for the district as GCSO works to address its staffing concerns.

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