Via Kentucky Department of Corrections Facebook page

Exactly 10 weeks after being informed that their promised 12% salary raises were being abruptly halted, state probation and parole officers were again told by leadership in the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet on Friday that many of them would receive raises next month — though not offering specific figures on how many officers or how much their raises would amount to.

In an effort to improve the recruitment and retention of such overworked probation and parole officers and supervisors, the Justice Cabinet and Department of Corrections announced in February that they would all receive 12% raises effective March 16.

However, the day before those raises were to go into effect, department leadership told officers the raises were now on hold, blaming legal vetting errors and misinformation made by “former leadership” at Corrections.

Though officers were told that leadership remained “100% committed” to making the promised 12% raises a reality, they had not heard anything concrete until the letter from Justice Cabinet Sec. John Tilley and new Probation and Parole Director Erica Hargis on Friday — which still couched the upcoming raises in vague terms.

Noting that the state Personnel Cabinet had announced a revived salary schedule that increases the midpoint wage for each pay grade effective June 1, the letter added that “although not all employees will be affected by this adjusted schedule, we are excited to announce that many probation and parole employees will see impacts from this new revision.”

Asked by Insider Louisville specifically how many probation and parole officers would be receiving a 12% raise next month, state Department of Correction Spokeswoman Katherine Williams said, “We expect that many P&P officers will receive an increase, but the specific details of each increase are being worked out by our human resources office.”

“Corrections will not have the final numbers and details until after June 18, when all of the increases have been processed,” said Williams in an email. “Employees will be receiving an individualized statement on the specifics of their salary increase, and our human resource staff are also available to help employees with any additional questions or concerns.”

Williams gave the same verbatim response on Friday to Ryan Straw, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Metropolitan Lodge No. 32, who advocates on behalf of the 200-plus probation and parole officers that belong to the Kentucky State FOP and communicates directly with the Corrections commissioner and Probation and Parole director.

Straw told Insider that he is “not satisfied with (the) vague letter,” adding that multiple questions remain on what the officers’ raises will be, who will get them and what will be the new salary starting point for officers.

Straw has been outspoken in his criticism of Corrections leadership over the past two months, posting open letters about the department’s lack of transparency on what was being done to secure the 12% raises. Earlier this month, Straw wrote that the department’s social media campaign on “Corrections Employee Appreciation Week” amounted to “a slap in the face” while the Probation and Parole division’s leadership “appears tone-deaf to the suggestions of their rank and file.”

“We had such high hopes for this new administration,” wrote Straw in a May 10 letter to then-acting Director Hargis. “With each passing day however, the sky gets darker and darker. I ask you to consider improving our communications immediately to salvage any opportunity for a productive partnership.”

Kentucky State FOP President Berl Perdue told Insider in a statement on Tuesday that probation and parole officers were promised a 12% raise and the FOP is thankful that Corrections is “pursuing this issue” and “looking forward to the department raising pay for these officers as promised.”

Perdue told Insider last month that probation and parole officers “have been overlooked and underpaid for far too long,” as the state FOP “will actively work with our members in the future to correct the problems these dedicated public servants have faced and suffered through the years.”

The first announcement of the 12% raises in February occurred the same week as the firing of former Corrections Commissioner James Erwin, who pushed for the raises. The March 15 letter announcing the halt of those raises from Corrections’ Acting Commissioner Jonathan Grate and former Director of Probation and Parole Johnathan Hall stated that the department remains “100% committed” to securing the raises, but there would have to be a “delay.”

“Unfortunately, in the haste to tell you about the raises, former leadership at the department had not taken all the legally and operationally-required steps,” stated Grate and Hall in the letter to officers. “Those steps are what we are working through now, which include the complete vetting by the Personnel Cabinet and Office of the State Budget Director. We are working to ensure that raises are implemented in the most equitable manner possible.”

Continuing a string of firings and suspensions with the Department of Corrections since the beginning of the year, Hall was fired from his position leading the Division of Probation and Parole 10 days after this letter, due to his alleged mishandling of an allegation of sexual assault by parolee against her parole officer.

Asked if the Department of Corrections and Justice Cabinet are still “100% committed” to giving all probation and parole officers a 12% raise, Williams and Justice Cabinet spokesman Mike Wynn did not immediately reply with a comment.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]