Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor asked county leaders today not to chop vacant positions from his department and sought to explain challenges he faces filling a high number of open jobs.
For more than two hours today, Pastor and Undersheriff Eileen Bisson addressed questions from the Pierce County Council.
Afterward, Council Chairwoman Joyce McDonald said the council hopes to restore four to five of 14 vacancies slated to be cut from law enforcement in County Executive Pat McCarthy’s 2013 budget.
“It is our hope,” McDonald said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
But McDonald said she doesn’t expect the council to spare any of the nine positions McCarthy proposes cutting from the Corrections Bureau at the Pierce County Jail. It has six vacancies.
“I want to ask for zero staffing cuts,” Pastor told the council. “I want you to know that we are working to deal with issues of unfilled positions.”
“We’re always looking,” Bisson said. “We’re always being proactive.”
And Pastor said there’s a misconception that law enforcement side of the department has had 14 vacancies since January.
That’s not the case, he said.
“It varies,” Pastor said. “It’s high right now.”
But McDonald said she had no better understanding after the meeting why the Sheriff’s Department has the number of vacancies it does.
And just exactly how many law enforcement positions have been vacant is a point of conflict, she said.
The council has heard the number of law enforcement openings has run as high as 22 this year, she said.
“Our numbers are totally different than their numbers,” McDonald said.
Council budget consultant Michael Transue said he’ll look into the differences in numbers with the sheriff’s department.
Restoring four law enforcement deputies could cost at least $336,000, including benefits.
McDonald said the council will have to figure out where that money would come from as it puts the budget together. The seven-member panel is expected to approve next year’s budget on Nov. 6.