Sheriff's department employee reimbursing county after receiving - WJHL.com

Sheriff's department employee reimbursing county after receiving unearned sick pay

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UNICOI COUNTY, TN (WJHL) -

Unicoi County Sheriff's Department Administrative Assistant Craig Masters has agreed to pay back nearly $5,000 in sick pay after recent state audits revealed he should have never received that money.

The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury's audits found back in 2012 the part-time employee was paid $4,845.75 for 146 hours of sick pay while he was out of work due to a medical condition.

"As a part-time employee this employee was not entitled to benefits such as sick leave that a full-time employee would receive as provided by the department's personnel policy," the audit said.

Sheriff Mike Hensley told auditors during the eight weeks in question Masters did work some and should have received a paycheck. However, timesheets never backed that up. In fact, the audits revealed the sheriff's department did not do a good job of maintaining the part-time employee's timesheets.

Masters has since agreed to reimburse the county. As of September 1st, auditors determined Masters had already paid back $1,500.

"I would like to think that it was an accident," Mayor Greg Lynch said of the sick pay situation. "Knowing Mr. Masters, I don't think he would purposely take money from the county. I would want to believe that it was an accident, because you've got to realize that things had to be in a state of flux over there because their administrator was out."

The mayor called the findings eye-openers. He said he feels confident the sheriff's department will now learn from the situation.

This isn't the first time Masters' pay has come into question.

Earlier this year, Mayor Lynch says the sheriff asked for a nearly $6,000 raise for Masters, which would have taken his annual salary from $31,325 to $37,000 for 18 hours of work a week. The Unicoi County Commission denied that increase, which would have paid Masters roughly $39 an hour.

"They had asked for some pretty hefty salary increases," Mayor Lynch said of the sheriff's department. "On the surface it sounds like a lot and it is. The part-time people didn't get a raise this go-around."

As part of their recent audits, auditors also found the sheriff's department bought two used vehicles for just under $10,000 each back in 2012 without putting them out to bid.

"Apparently in an attempt to circumvent the county's competitive bid requirements," the audit stated. "As a result, the best and lowest price may not have been obtained for the purchase of these used vehicles."

The sheriff's office told auditors as a result of these findings it has since changed its practices.

As for official comment, despite repeated attempts, we've not been able to reach neither Sheriff Hensley nor Masters.

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