NAPLES, Fla. - One of the men running to be the top cop in Collier County says the Sheriff's Office is wasting taxpayer money. WINK News was the first to hear of the accusation and started digging into the numbers.
The already difficult job for Collier County Sheriff's Deputies has been even tougher in recent years. Budget problems have left the office with fewer employees working longer hours.
Yet despite the hard work, the Sheriff's office maintains that no one has received a "proper raise" in the last four years.
But Victor Ortino, who is running against Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, says that's not the case. He released a report to WINK News first which shows that in fact several employees have seen their pay go up. WINK News independently verified the salaries through open records. Our investigation uncovered more than 90 employees were paid more in 2009 than they were in 2008. 64 had higher salaries in 2010 and 109 had pay bumps in 2011.
So how are those salary increases not raises?
Rambosk says no one has received a raise since he's been in office. Instead the pay bumps are explained by promotions, overtime or vacation buy backs.
"They went up 10 to 20 thousand dollars," said Ortino, referring to the salary increases, "some of them had 50 percent raise increases, so if that's all vacation money and buy backs...I don't want to laugh but that's pretty funny."
Ortino also argues the organization is bloated and top heavy. For example, according to public records, the 37 highest paid employees in the Sheriff's Office make $100,000 a year or more. Compared to Lee County, which has nearly twice as many residents, and has only six employees making six figures.
Rambosk says Collier County's command staff has more experience and the employees have been with the office longer, which leads to the higher salaries.
"That's what we pay for, we want to have a low crime rate and we have the lowest one in South Florida," said County Commissioner Jim Coletta, a supporter of Rambosk.