El Dorado County Undersheriff Rich Williams spoke of the annual report, the department’s budget and more at the El Dorado County Taxpayer’s Association meeting on Feb. 11.
Williams, who was to speak along with Sheriff John D’Agostini, first noted that the sheriff was ill and could not attend. He then launched into a short recap of the recent annual report released by the department. The budget, he said, was $56 million and there are about 400 employees on payroll.
When D’Agostini was elected, he said, his first job was to look at the budget. During the first few weeks’ staff meetings, Williams recalled, staff could not account for how much overtime had been taken. “There was no answer. We didn’t know,” he said.
In the past two years, that has changed. “We pay attention,” he said. There is a new overtime system that tracks overtime for every week. At the first meeting after they instituted the change, there were 1,000 hours of overtime worked in just that past week. “At $50 to $75 an hour, you do the math,” Williams said. “It’s a huge amount of money.”
EDSO called in an outside consultant to do a study of the two county jails and dispatch. The problem, they found, was in employee shifts. “(The shifts) were great for the employees, but not for taxpayers,” he said.
Patrol and dispatch shifts were changed to save money, “for the advantage of the department, not the employee,” Williams said. Since then, the department is “doing well.” Employees are now “held accountable for overtime” because “no one was paying attention to the dollars.”
In part, because of this, there is a surplus in the budget, “At least $1 million, probably more,” the undersheriff said. That will go into the General Fund.
Under questioning from members of the association, Williams said that the deputies assigned to the county Superior Court system — who are contracted out — are a small percentage of total overtime, while those assigned to jail and patrol are a much higher percentage. The jail is because “positions have to be filled every day,” despite illness, training or vacation time, as the state mandates those positions always be filled. Williams guessed the jail made up about 30 percent of total overtime and patrol about 50 percent.
Williams was also questioned about “109 inmates,” those who should have been sent to state prison, but due to lack of space are housed in county jails. There are about 100 in the county, Williams said, and it costs $44,000 per year for 109 inmates to house. He said they are paid about a third of the “actual cost of impact” from the state. The program also affects the Probation Department. He noted all the 109 prisoners are locals, including females.
Running both jails is akin to running two cities, Williams said. With a county total of 465 maximum inmates, the county provides three meals each day, hot water, clothing, heat and shoulders medical costs. When questioned if the two county jails could be consolidated to cut down on costs, the undersheriff said he had heard plans for more than a decade, but nothing had happened.
When asked what makes up the most calls received right now, the undersheriff noted that domestic violence and suicide calls seems to be cropping up the most recently, and the number of suicides and attempts was “disturbing.” The most calls, overall, come from El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park.
County Assessor Karl Weiland posed a question about the state of marijuana in the county, complaining of a pit bull-guarded grow near his home.
“Frankly, it’s out of control,” Williams said of the marijuana situation. “Our guys are going after the big ones,” he said, like Mexican mafia and gang-related grows. The department, however, is constrained by law of those legally growing. Most of the business is packing and shipping to support criminal organizations, he said, but the grows attract “ripoffs, and people get murdered. You don’t hear about it often.” Instead, he said, you hear more about medical marijuana in the news.
On the topic, Supervisor Ray Nutting said that an ordinance had passed in the Board of Supervisors that said what growers can’t do, as opposed to what they could, in an attempt to conform with federal laws. “They can’t grow more than 10-foot-by-20-foot per parcel,” he said. “It’s hard to enforce but it’s our best shot.”
Williams was questioned on crime concerning Red Hawk Casino. The casino, he said, pays EDSO about $500,000, which “just about covers” four patrolling deputies. He noted that casinos “bring a certain type of people” and that drug use and sales are found at the business. “In the future, we’re probably going to need more,” Williams said of deputies at the casino.
There are now around 10 reserve deputies, Williams said after a question was raised, with a few hired as regular deputies every so often, he said. They are on the same training level as normal deputies and often supplement them. The Sheriff’s Team of Active Retirees, better known as the STARs, do “many, many things at no cost” to the department, he added.
A final question regarding illegal immigrants led to the undersheriff saying it was not something the Sheriff’s Office was concentrating on. While the county used to be paid for keeping illegal immigrants in the county jails, the program is no longer in place.
Williams encouraged all residents of the county to sign up for the upcoming Citizens Academy and to inquire about ride-alongs with deputies to get an understanding of what a typical day entails. The Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 530-621-5655.