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Sheriff's veteran piles up overtime

Officials are looking into a six-week period where the sergeant worked close to 300 hours of overtime at the jail.

By RYAN DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 6, 2002


During a six-week stretch this summer, Pasco County sheriff's Sgt. Wandell Everett worked nearly 300 hours of overtime at the county jail. Aside from showing Everett's stamina, his work record for that time is noteworthy because:

Everett, a road-patrol supervisor, isn't certified to work in the jail. Sheriff Bob White's policy prohibits uncertified personnel from working at the jail.

On seven occasions, Everett broke agency rules by working more than 16 hours within a 24-hour period. Once he worked a 20 1/2-hour shift.

In another instance, Everett was paid for work at the jail and on the road -- at the same time.

Each time, Everett's supervisors signed his time card. A month and a half after his last overtime shift, the Sheriff's Office launched an ongoing investigation into Everett's actions, a probe that expanded after recent inquiries from the St. Petersburg Times.

Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said the investigation may grow to include Everett's supervisors.

Doll noted that Everett worked at the jail at a time of severe staff shortages. But Everett wasn't a cheap stopgap. He received a supervisor's pay although he mostly worked as a corrections deputy.

The $10,452.65 in overtime pay Everett earned in a six-week period was not good news for the cash-strapped Sheriff's Office, which announced in August that employees would receive comp time instead of pay for overtime.

But it was very good for Everett, who boosted his annual base pay by almost 20 percent.

And that's not all.

The overtime dramatically raised his income during a time period used to determine the size of his taxpayer-funded pension. The bottom line: Simply because of the jail overtime, Everett's pension could go up as much as $1,650 per year.

Beefing up retirement

Everett, 51, chose to enter the state retirement system July 1 and selected the deferred retirement option, which allows him to continue to work up to five more years. However, his pension will be based on his five highest earnings years prior to July 1.

Until the six-week period prior to July 1, which marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for determining pensions, Everett had not worked a minute at the jail this year. And he has not worked a minute there since July 1.

But in that six-week period, he worked 283.5 hours at the jail, an average of more than 47 hours of overtime a week. (In one two-week period, during which normal shifts total 85 hours, Everett put in for a total 204.5 hours.)

State officials were unable to determine Everett's pension or the overtime's precise impact on it.

Doll said he could not reach Everett for comment. Even if he had reached him, Doll said the sergeant would not have been able to comment. Sheriff's general orders prohibit employees from discussing ongoing investigations.

A highly paid deputy

At one point this year, there were 22 corrections deputy vacancies at the county jail, Doll said.

Everett was willing to help. As a 19-year agency veteran and supervisor, his overtime pay is $36.87 per hour. That's what he was paid even though he worked mostly as a corrections deputy -- a much lower paying job.

Rookie corrections deputies working OT make $22 per hour.

But because of the vacancies, Doll said, the agency turned to "whomever wanted to work there and was qualified."

Only problem is, Everett wasn't qualified.

The Times recently asked Doll why Everett was listed as being sworn only for law enforcement -- not corrections -- on a sheriff's roster. The spokesman said the agency didn't know why.

It has since found records that he trained in corrections in 1977, but according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement database, he isn't certified, Doll said.

Apparently the training he received has expired, Doll said. Sheriff's officials said that should not affect the state or national accreditation of their jail in Land O'Lakes.

"If we kept using people like that, it might have," Doll said.

Since the Times noticed that some employees who were not certified as corrections deputies -- such as Everett -- had been working in the jail, the agency has begun double checking certifications, Doll said.

Kim Bogart, a former Pasco sheriff's captain, who is executive director of the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission, said using noncertified deputies is not necessarily a problem. But, he said, they could not perform all the duties of a certified deputy.

"It's very delicate on how you would use someone who is not certified," Bogart said.

A tired sergeant

No matter how many hours Everett listed on his time sheet, it was approved.

Two supervisors -- Capt. Pete Petrosky and Lt. Bruce Schmelter -- signed his time cards despite violations of the general orders. (Doll said neither supervisor could comment for this article because of the ongoing investigation.)

While working long hours, Everett wrecked his patrol car. On June 2, he made a left turn in front of an oncoming car on Fort King Road in Zephyrhills, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report. Doll said the wreck caused $1,471 damage to Everett's patrol car. The sergeant was reprimanded.

The wreck came in the middle of a day in which Everett worked 17 hours.

Despite a Sheriff's Office ban on shifts longer than 16 hours, within a 16-day period Everett worked corrections-duty stints of 16 1/2, 16 1/2, 17, 18 and 20 1/2 hours.

On at least two other occasions he worked more than 16 hours in a 24-hour period.

Once, Everett worked 30 consecutive hours -- 12 on regular duty followed by 18 doing corrections duties, his time cards state.

And Everett's time card includes one work day that could not have happened.

He signed for working at the county jail from 6 p.m. on June 18 to 11 a.m. the next day. He also signed -- and was approved by Lt. Schmelter -- for working his regular patrol shift on June 19 from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Thus, Everett claims he was working both road patrol and at the jail from 5 to 11 a.m. on June 19. For those hours, he was paid more than $61 an hour.

Sheriff's officials began to look into those hours after the Times asked questions last week.

Are there others?

Everett is just one of five patrol sergeants to work overtime in the past year at the county jail, said Jon Powers, another spokesman for Sheriff White.

Two others worked more than 90 hours of overtime, Powers said.

After an inquiry from the Times, sheriff's officials said one -- Sgt. Roger Mills -- was not certified to work in the jail. The Times has requested time card records for all five sergeants.

Sheriff's officials said they are checking those sergeants' time cards for irregularities. They said they did not know when their investigation would be complete.

-- Ryan Davis is the police reporter in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245 or toll free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is rdavis@sptimes.com.

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