The Ellis County salary grievance committee voted to deny a salary increase from $54,436 to $60,031 for Precinct Two Constable Terry Nay in a 7-2 vote during its meeting Friday morning.
The committee’s recommendation will be forward to the Ellis County Commissioners Court.
Nay has served the county as a constable for the past 18 years and has been elected to his post for five terms. He told the committee that he brought this item to their attention not because he was seeking a raise but for salary equalization.
During his presentation he informed committee members that countywide elected officials such as the district clerk, county clerk and the tax assessor make $66,008 a year. The only two countywide elected officials that differ are the sheriff, who makes $82,127 and the county judge who makes $96,722. The reason for this difference is because the sheriff and the county judge have additional duties that require more time.
Nay said that constables are required to have more education than any other elected precinct official to run their office and are not provided with support staff. Unlike a police officer that works a patrol, shift constables are on duty around the clock. Constables have full police authority within the entire county and aid officers from other jurisdictions on a regular basis. Aiding other officers is only a part of the service the constable’s office provides, Nay said.
Standard duties of a constable include acting as a bailiff, answering citizen complaints, serving warrants, arresting fugitives and other criminal offenders, enforcing court directed orders, executing judgments, performing traffic enforcement and subpoenaing witnesses. Constables must be licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and must reside in the precinct they hold an office in.
Nay said the officials who are elected from a precinct serve a smaller area but have a greater difference in salaries among each other. In the information Nay provided to the committee, county commissioners make $75,276 a year, justices of the peace make $60,031 a year and constables make $54,436. Nay said while there is constancy in how much countywide elected officials are paid, there is no constancy in the salaries of precinct-wide elected officials.
Nay also provided salary information on constables working in Bell, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, McClennan, Parker and Tarrant to the committee. The average pay for constables in these nine counties is $65,928.44.
Committee member and County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson said the information Nay provided to the committee about what constables in other counties make is not a fair comparison because some of the counties in his data have a much larger population than Ellis. These include Dallas, Tarrant and Denton Counties. Wilson said the counties that are comparable to Ellis County are Johnson, Kaufman and Parker. Constables in those counties have an average salary of $53,628, Wilson said.
County Auditor Mike Navarro said in addition to his salary, Nay receives benefits such as health insurance and retirement. The value of these benefits can total around $13,000- $15,000.
Members of the committee asked Nay if he could tell them how much time that he devoted to helping other law enforcement officers in the county. Nay said that is a hard to calculate because calls for assistance can come up at different times throughout the day.
“Unlike regular officers who have a shift from 8 a.m. -5 p.m. and they go home and turn it off, that does not happen for us who are elected officials. We are constantly getting phone calls from citizens. We are constantly listening to our radios and paying attention to what is going on in the county — even if we are in our personal vehicles,” Nay said. “We are constantly on duty. If we are in Ellis County it is our job, duty and our responsibility to be available and keep an ear and eye out to what is going on. I wish I could give you a fixed (figure) of how much time we spend a week, but I can’t do that. So because I am paid salary to do a job I don’t keep a time clock.“
Committee member Sherriff Johnny Brown said if the sheriff’s office has any type of call and the constable’s office has a deputy or a constable nearby they will take that call until we get there.
County Judge Carol Bush said elected officials have not had a pay raise since 2008. Bush is the chief budget officer for the county and prepares the budget.
The budget portion for salary, expenses and allowances was approved at the Aug. 12 commissioners meeting. The entire budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year is under review at this time. Once the commissioners approve the budget it becomes effective Oct. 1.
Wilson said he is not against Nay’s request but in light of the economic reality that departments throughout the county have faced in recent years, it is hard to approve such a request.
Wilson said when he has submitted his budget for the past three year he had been unsuccessful in getting salaries increases for some of his support staff who make around $29,000 a year.
“I am really struggling with voting to give a single elected official a 10.27 percent raise,” Wilson said. “Comparatively speaking I don’t think that it is an unreasonable salary that he is making compared to like counties with like populations in our area.”
In a 7-2 vote the committee voted to recommend to the commissioners court to deny the salary increase for Nay. Voting in favor of the increase was Sandra Hill and Brown.
Brown said the reason he voted for the salary increase is because Nay works tirelessly in the county not only to perform his duties as a constable but also to help other law enforcement agencies in the area.
Nay said while the vote did not turn out the way he hoped it would, he respects the decision of the committee. Nay said he appreciates the committee’s participation in giving him the opportunity to voice a grievance.
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