County Legislature Raises Sheriff’s Salary | Tompkins County
The Tompkins County Legislature met on January 18 where it heard the county’s annual state address, increased the sheriff’s salary, and acknowledged the death of the county’s first administrator, John Murphy.
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Shawna Black delivers 2022 State of the County Address
Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) delivered a speech reflecting on the state of Tompkins County. The address focused on county services to residents, creative problem solving, and the dedicated staff of public servants.
Regarding the county’s service to residents, Black said, “Look no further than the operations of our health department and nurses who have personally impacted tens of thousands of lives helping people through COVID- 19. Our nurses and COVID responders have been there for people in all circumstances, whether they are sick, caring for a loved one, or afraid of the impact the pandemic or disease may have on them. She continued, “The level of service that I described in our COVID response is happening every day in our organization. Our county services help people find jobs, manage over 300 miles of county roads, respond to emergencies, keep the community healthy, safe and vibrant, manage records and technology important to the people’s lives, delivering essential programs to those in need, overseeing local elections, the list goes on and our responsibility to keep these services operational and supported has never been greater.
Black focused on the county’s “ability to creatively address the challenges facing our community,” highlighting the county’s work on reinventing public safety. Black referenced several reimagining plans, including the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office “implementing a pilot program to respond to non-emergency calls in new ways.” This pilot project will open doors for a better understanding of how we can react differently when a law enforcement officer is not needed on the scene, freeing up time to respond to emergencies and further reducing disproportionate minority contact with the criminal justice system.
Tompkins County staff received praise from Black in her speech where she said the county plans to undergo a compensation review this year.
“This year, we will undertake a compensation study to better understand the investment we are currently making in our workforce and the adjustments needed to invest more in our people and the future operations of this organization,” said she declared. “We want to continue to recruit, retain and support a diverse and excellent workforce that can continue to provide excellent service to our community.”
Black addressed the challenges ahead, sharing a vision for increased resilience and sustainability of the efforts that have helped bring the county to where it is today. “We have a responsive legislature, with a tradition of investing in what matters to our organization and our residents, I look forward to a successful 2022 to become more resilient and invest in the sustainability and improvement of our operations. ” Black closed his speech by saying, “In closing, local government feels closer to people’s lives than ever before. The successes and challenges I have noted in this address have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of our constituents and our neighbours. I sincerely hope that we as a legislature will continue to make investments to reflect our roles in people’s lives and take accountability seriously.
Resolution Passed Supporting Tompkins County Sheriff’s Salary Increase
After extensive debate, a resolution passed 8-6 to increase pay for the Tompkins County Sheriff position, with lawmakers Randy Brown (R-Newfield), Henry Granison (D-Ithaca), Rich John (D-Ithaca) , Mike Lane (D-Dryden), Veronica Pillar (D-Ithaca) and Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca) opposed.
Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing), who chairs the Budget, Capital and Personnel Committee, added context to the resolution that a special issue has arisen with the sheriff’s pay — since the last election in 2018, the county salary structure led to the undersheriff. position being paid nearly $10,000 more per year than sheriff, and lieutenants also earning more than sheriff. Dawson added that this law would create a structure for the department going forward where the sheriff would always earn more than the undersheriff and no future legislature would see this same situation occur. A public hearing was held earlier in the meeting and received no public comment.
Several lawmakers spoke out in opposition, with Lane commenting, “The most senior person in our sheriff’s department is an elected official…We’ve never changed an elected official’s salary from what it was set before.” elections, and that is a terrible precedent.
He also raised questions about the sheriff’s pay raise following recent white-collar contract negotiations and the upcoming compensation study. The sheriff job is subject to both the recent white-collar deal and the upcoming pay study.
John said he supported raising pay in a new term, but sided with Lane’s reasoning about moving an elected official’s midterm salary.
Meanwhile, Pillar spoke about the inequalities when salaries are increased at the higher levels of the hierarchies and the disparities that can be maintained and which impact those in lower level or less powerful positions.
In support of the resolution, Legislator Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) said, “I’m glad this has come forward. It would be one thing if the salary wasn’t so disparate… I look at it from a fundamental fairness perspective.
Among other things
Black acknowledged the death of the county’s first administrator, John Murphy, by reading a statement shared by another former administrator, Joe Mareane.
“John helped usher in profound changes to the structure of Tompkins County government that followed the passage of the county’s first charter in 1968. The decision to become a ‘charter county’ represented a major change for the county governance, allowing much greater latitude in how it structured and organized government operations.
A central feature of the Charter was a new position of Commissioner of Budget and Administration who took on many of the budgetary and management responsibilities previously held by the Board of Supervisors and the elected county treasurer. Choosing the right person for this position was extremely important. In October 1969, John Murphy, manager of the National Cash Register, was appointed as the first and ultimately last Commissioner of Budget and Administration for the county. This position was quickly superseded by a 1973 Charter Amendment which created the new position of County Administrator – essentially the County Chief Executive – with a wide range of powers that allowed the council to initiate policy and to a professional manager to administer them.
Once again, the Supervisory Board turned to John. By unanimous vote, he was appointed by the Board of Supervisors as the county’s first Trustee in 1973. He held this position until his retirement in 1985. With the support and guidance of the Board of Supervisors, John has played an instrumental role in creating the modern county we know today, enabling Tompkins to provide a growing range of widely mandated services effectively and efficiently. Among John’s many other accomplishments, his tenure included establishing the County Office of Aging (COFA) and Office of Youth; building a new county hospital—the largest construction project to date in the county’s history—and moving it to the new nonprofit Cayuga Medical Center; the transfer of many judicial functions from the county to New York State; and a host of management systems and practices that are still part of contemporary county. Upon his retirement in 1985, John was replaced by Scott Heyman.”