Commissioners opposed to salary increases

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo New Curry County Adult Detention center administrator Lois Patricia Jones-Bean discussed allowing volunteers into the detention center with Clovis’ Joe and Elva Padilla during Tuesday’s meet and greet at the Curry County Courthouse.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Curry County commissioners agreed Tuesday not to raise elected official salaries, suggesting the issue be revisited during budget structuring in the spring.

County Manager Lance Pyle presented the commission with a memorandum that said the salary increase suggestion came at the prompting of County Clerk-elect Connie Jo Lyman.

The suggested increase was 4 percent.

Commissioner Pete Hulder said he believed the issue should be put on hold in light of the economy and a recent recommendation by the state that government employee salaries be frozen for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Curry County has 10 elected officials.

Under state statute, elected officials cannot receive a salary increase approved during the two-year terms they serve.

Current salaries:

• Commissioner — $19,584

• Clerk — $49,120

• Treasurer — $49,120

• Assessor — $49,120

• Sheriff — $51,647

• Probate judge — $17,188

In other business Tuesday, new jail administrator Lois Jones-Bean told commissioners about changes she plans for the jail.

Around the first of the year, Bean said the detention center will be borrowing two staff members from the Eddy County Detention Center who are experienced in classification of prisoners and fire safety to assist in revamping those systems and ensuring they are functioning properly.

Inmate classification is the method by which detention centers organize and house inmates, giving consideration to special needs, behavior problems and possible problem causing issues.

“It is so vital that we get them properly classified,” she said.

Bean said she will also be changing uniforms to reflect a more professional look and has been addressing issues with county maintenance personnel and discussing things that need to be fixed, such as a heating issue in the administrative offices and inmate housing area and the facility’s intercom system.

Bean was hired Nov. 25 to replace Leslie Johnson, who retired in August.

Her salary is $65,000, county officials have said.

With Bean’s arrival, Audrey Barriga, who served as interim administrator, has resumed to her position as chief deputy administrator.

Sheriff’s deputy Keith Bessette, who was serving as interim assistant under Barriga, has returned to the Curry County Sheriff’s Office.

Barriga has been tasked with auditing staff training programs and records in keeping with standards set by the American Correctional Association and Bean said she will be conducting a security audit of the facility using the same standards.

“Once we do that, we’ll know where we need to go and what we need to ask for,” she said, estimating the audits will take about six months to complete.

Following the meeting, Bean took commissioners on a tour of the jail, and pointed out areas she has plans to improve.

An August assessment of the detention center prompted by the escape of eight inmates identified multiple security issues that included staffing shortages, outdated policies and procedures and an “abysmal” structural facility.