Sheriff candidate Groelle says he won't accept pay raise

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A challenger in the race for Rock County sheriff announced that, if elected, he would not accept pay raises that the county board approved recently.

Gary Groelle, a sheriff's office captain, is challenging Sheriff Robert Spoden in the Aug. 12 Democratic primary.

Spoden said he would take the raises and criticized how Groelle is handling the issue.

In a press release, Groelle called the sheriff's raises that begin Jan. 1, 2015, “excessive.”

State law requires the county board to set the sheriff's pay every four years. The board must do so before the date on which candidates for the office can begin circulating nominating petitions.

The county board's staff committee develops a recommendation for any salary increase, based in part on salaries paid to other sheriffs and salaries of sheriff's employees,  County Administrator Craig Knutson said.

Data from the county payroll office show the sheriff's salary was frozen in 2011 at $93,826 but raised every year since then to $102,819 this year. That's a 9.58 percent increase over three years.

The county board April 10 approved sheriff salary increases of 2.5 percent in 2015, 6.84 percent in 2016, 2 percent in 2017 and 2 percent in 2018. That's a cumulative increase of 13.94 percent over those four years, and the salary would reach $117,147 in 2018.

“I was disappointed when the position of Rock County Sheriff was recently given a significant salary increase again,” Groelle said in his press release.

Groelle said he would decline any raise that is more than that of any other employee in the sheriff's office to show solidarity for co-workers and out of respect for taxpayers.

“Although there certainly is a time and a place for one to advocate for themselves or their position to be given a reasonable raise, and even possibly discuss appropriate comparable positions to gauge an increase, this clearly is not the time or place for this office to receive the pay of a CEO,” Groelle said.

“The current economic situation in Rock County has citizens and businesses still facing financial struggles and hardships. It is rare to find families bringing in six figures.”

Spoden suggested Groelle should have raised his objections before the board made its decision April 10

“Suddenly, now he's bringing it up. I guess I'm just confused,” Spoden added.

Spoden said the 2.5 percent increase next year is the same percentage that all deputies will get.

The $5,000 in 2016 was added to bring the sheriff's salary closer to that of the Janesville and Beloit police chiefs so that qualified people would run for sheriff, Spoden said.

Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore will make $125,789 this year. Beloit Police Chief Norm Jacobs will make $127,595.

Asked why he would accept the raises, Spoden noted that the salary is set for the next sheriff, not necessarily for whoever is the current sheriff, and he respects the county board's decision and is grateful.

“To second-guess that when you're not part of the process and when you could have been a part of the process, I think is disrespectful to the county board, and I'm not going to do that,” Spoden said.

Groelle said he didn't know about the raises until the board passed them.

Groelle said he would decline the raises or donate the increases to Rock County charities. The county treasurer has returned her raise in the past, and the county clerk at least once has donated her raise to charity, according to Gazette records.

Groelle's salary this year is $41.91 an hour, or $87,172 for the year, based on 2,080 hours, according to the county payroll office.

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