Troubleshooters: Vacation pay part of focus of state police investigation of former sheriff
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - While former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel waits for potential criminal charges following a state police raid of his home and business, he will no longer draw a paycheck from Clark County.
Records show he was set to be paid through January of next year, even though he announced his retirement in April, as he drew down his accumulated leave.
Elected officials in Clark County don’t get vacation time or overtime.
They don’t punch a clock because they are accountable to voters.
However, former Sheriff Noel was supposed to remain on the payroll for nearly seven months because of a policy he put into place that appears to contradict state law.
11 days before taking office as Clark County Sheriff in 2015, Noel was hired by interim Sheriff Brian Meyer as an employee of the department, even though he would receive two more paychecks from state police. Sources said Noel wanted to keep his law enforcement powers.
“I want the officers to be proud to be in that car and the community to be proud that they’re there,” Noel said on election night in 2014.
As Sheriff, Noel had an initial salary of around $132,000, the highest in Clark County. When he retired in April after eight years as sheriff, his pay stub showed he had accumulated more than 1,000 hours of leave time, allowing him to collect seven months more pay during his retirement. However, the Clark County handbook says elected officials do not earn leave. County Attorney Scott Lewis explained Noel earned the leave time because of his status as an employee before his election. The policy said any Sheriff’s office employee who wins the election must resign unless it’s a part-time elected position, or they’re elected sheriff.
“Conflict of interest occurs when an employee becomes an elected member of the executive, legislative, or fiscal body of that same unit,” former State Representative Kevin Mahan said.
Lawmakers passed a law in 2012 forcing government employees who win elections in the same office that employs them to resign.
“I see a lot of issues,” Indiana University Law Professor Cynthia Baker said.
She compared the Clark County Sheriff’s regulation against state law for WAVE.
“An individual is considered to have resigned as a government employee when the individual assumed elected office is pretty clear,” Baker said.
She said there was another big problem.
“They both seem to be in conflict with state statute,” Baker said.
Counties can’t approve policies that violate state law.
The attorney for the Clark County Sheriffs Merit Board told WAVE it doesn’t approve regulations. Those are created by the sheriff. This policy was created while Noel was sheriff. When WAVE calculated the leave policy for his time not as sheriff, but as an employee, four months and 11 days, he would earn 16 hours.
“They’ll have the opportunity to run,” Mahan said. “It’s just if elected they’ll have to make a decision on whether they’re going to hold office or keep their position.”
WAVE sent Noel a detailed email asking him for an interview to explain this.
He did not respond.
Sheriff Scottie Maples sent a statement saying:
“Several months ago, a review by my office uncovered troubling evidence of potential criminal activity including financial and payroll irregularities involving former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel. We sent that evidence to the Indiana State Police for an independent investigation and provided all the assistance we could. As part of our cooperation with ISP, we were asked not to say or do anything that could have compromised the investigation. After yesterday’s search warrants were executed, I can now say that we believe Jamey Noel was not legally entitled to all of the personal time off he was being paid for after his resignation. My office will not pay him any additional leave and will work with the state to claw back any funds that were improperly paid. Please refer any questions to the Indiana State Police as this is an ongoing investigation”
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