E-N analysis shows more mismanagement of Bexar County jail under Ortiz
An Express-News analysis of jail records shows just how out of hand staffing problems got at the local jail under former Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz.
Reviewing records from October 2009 thru September 2012, the daily found Ortiz failed to fill spots temporarily vacated by several jailers that got called for reserve or National Guard duty. While Ortiz could have “double-filled” their spots – permanently hiring a jailer to fill the vacancy, then shifting that jailer to another open position when the staffer returned from military duty – he inexplicably didn’t in 12 cases (that’s half of jailers who went on extended military leave). Those dozen jailers in turn racked up more than 28,000 hours of absenteeism, hours that had to be taken over by another jailer working for time-and-a-half pay. Those 12 spots blew up the jail’s overtime costs, comprising at least 18 percent of the jail’s overtime spending, the E-N reports.
Just days into her new job, Sheriff Susan Pamerleau discovered that overtime costs had left her office in dire financial straits. While Commissioners Court had allotted the sheriff’s office a quarter million dollars for jailer overtime pay for FY 2013, which started in October, Ortiz’s office had burned through $1.2 million during the first three months of the fiscal year, his last three months in office. After discovering the budget crunch early this month, Pamerleau asked county officials for emergency funding to make sure jailers who had already worked overtime would be compensated.
Ortiz clashed frequently with county officials over staffing at the jail. Though jail diversion programs spearheaded by the county have reduced the jail population by 17 percent in recent years, spending at the jail only decreased by 5 percent during the same period. Last year Commissioners Court cut the jail’s budget from $56 million to $53 million for the 2012 fiscal year, over vocal protest from Ortiz. His office cut 100 jailer positions cut through attrition, though Commissioners eventually restored $2 million of those cuts.
Tomorrow Pamerleau will go before Commissioners Court to ask for more funding (her office hasn’t yet said how much) to ensure jailers who worked overtime shifts this month, but only got comp time, will get paid, and to make sure the office can cover future overtime pay. Pamerleau’s office says she will also outline her longterm plan to reduce overtime spending at the jail. – Michael Barajas