Courts & Crime

Cuts in Florida sheriff's office hit black detention deputies

FORT LAUDERDALE — Although the Broward Sheriff's Office has averted major layoffs, the county government's largest public agency will still be reducing expenses, with a disproportionate number of blacks bearing the brunt of pay cuts.

About 250 detention deputies who work in the county's jail system face being reclassified, meaning they will see their annual salaries slashed by about $11,000, effective Sept. 25. Nearly three of four of those deputies are black.

A few black politicians -- when informed by the media about the racial impact of the layoffs in May -- voiced concern. But so far there has been little other public response from black leaders.

"People have not been asleep on this one, it's just that it's difficult times all around and we are hoping the leadership at the sheriff's office will do the right thing,'' said Democratic state Rep. Perry Thurston, a black attorney who lives in Plantation.

The full picture of BSO's budget cuts remain unclear less than three weeks before the start of the next fiscal year Oct. 1. Sheriff Al Lamberti had proposed cutting $23 million but on Tuesday night county commissioners rejected the proposed tax rate which means additional cuts -- county spokeswoman Kimberly Maroe said BSO will be asked to cut an extra $21.8 million.

The pay cuts -- a result of county-imposed budget cuts -- have led to the union filing a grievance. The union also filed a charge of disparate treatment with the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, which is being handled by W. George Allen, a well-known civil rights attorney in Broward.

Members of the jail workers' union, the Federation of Public Employees, packed into a Plantation union hall Monday to raise questions and plot strategy about the pay cuts. The union has until Friday to tell BSO whether it will drop the grievance and accept the pay cuts. The EEOC case would move forward.

The Herald obtained a memo that shows the annual salaries of detention deputies being reclassified as technicians dropping significantly. For example, the salary of a first-year detention deputy earning about $39,477 will fall to $28,600 -- about a 28 percent drop.

BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal would not confirm the figures, saying they are still being negotiated. But Sheriff Al Lamberti in an interview described the reclassification as about a $10,000 a year pay cut.

Workers facing the pay cuts include many men and women in their 20s and 30s who say they may be unable to pay rent or lose their homes.

Read the full story at