Population drop affects Adams County sheriff’s salaryPublished 12:04am Wednesday, December 12, 2012
NATCHEZ — Migrating residents and the law he’s sworn to uphold may rob Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield of $9,600 in salary.
Adams County’s plummeting population should have triggered an automatic reduction in the sheriff’s salary at the beginning of 2012 when he was sworn in to a new term of office.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it,” Mayfield said Tuesday. “I had no idea of it.”
An accounting oversight appears to have kept the sheriff at the higher salary for the past 11 months.
The Natchez Democrat discovered the oversight Monday and brought it to the county’s attention.
“Nobody even thought to look at that,” Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said Tuesday. “I’ve been (a supervisor) for 17 years, and it’s my first experience with this. We’ll know from now on to look for that.”
“Each elected official is kind of different in terms of the formulas they use to ascertain the salaries,” he said.
Grennell said since the census only comes around every 10 years, the matter simply went unnoticed, but will be corrected immediately.
“If he’s being paid too much based on population, it’s going to have to be modified. He’s going to have to go to the correct salary,” he said. “There’s a possibility that he might have to pay this money back.”
Mayfield said he was happy with whatever is ultimately determined to be correct under the law.
“Whatever is right is right,” he said. “I’m more interested in doing the job right now. We were just meeting talking about a big investigation, so I’m more interested in that.”
“I just appreciate having a job,” he said, laughing.
Mississippi Code, 25-3-25, outlines a sliding salary scale for county sheriffs tied to ranges of county population as defined by the federal census.
Eight different pay levels exist, each tied to a different population range from a low of $55,000, for counties of less than 9,500 people, up to $90,000, for counties with 200,000 or more residents. Adams County falls approximately in the middle of the range.
When the 2010 Census data was released in February 2011, the county’s population had fallen by more than 2,000 residents. The 2000 population was 34,340 — just 340 people over the threshold for the higher pay rate — and the 2010 population was 32,297.
The newest population number also included approximately 2,000 inmates housed at the then new Adams County Correctional Center, meaning the county’s actual non-incarcerated population was around 30,300.
Mississippi law outlines elected officials’ salaries cannot be reduced during the middle of a term of office based on a change in population.
Mississippi Code 25-1-1 outlines that, unless otherwise noted in state law, a term for an elected official is four years.
Mayfield’s initial term of office — the unexpired term of former Sheriff Ronny Brown, who died in office — expired at the end of 2011. He was re-elected in November 2011 for another term that began Jan. 1, 2012.
County Attorney Scott Slover said Tuesday he believed the sheriff was likely overpaid based on his understanding of the law. However, to be safe, Slover said he was checking with the Mississippi Attorney General’s office to ensure no other factors or laws affected the matter.
Slover said he was “not highly optimistic” that the AG’s office would offer a legal opinion that was different than his own opinion that the sheriff was accidentally overpaid.
Prior to the population change, Mayfield’s base salary was $72,000 annually, but it should have reverted to $62,400 beginning in 2012.
In addition to his base pay, Adams County supervisors agreed in 2007 to add an additional $10,000 supplement to the sheriff’s salary, which is allowed under Mississippi law. That occurred when the Brown was still the sheriff. Mayfield filled that unexpired term during a special election in 2009.
Last year, the sheriff earned $82,000 including the base salary and supplement, but after the population adjustment the full compensation should be $72,400.
Supervisors announced this month they planned to ask the state Legislature for permission to give the sheriff up to an additional $20,000 in salary for agreeing to manage the Adams County Juvenile Detention Center. The move has been discussed, but has not taken place yet.