CANTON, SD (KELO) — The sheriff of Lincoln County is digging into his campaign war chest to ensure his deputies get more money while the county commission decides on whether or not pay increases are in order for everyone in the department.
Sheriff Steve Swenson is running unopposed for re-election this fall, so he’s using his campaign funds to pay $500 bonuses to his deputies and patrol officers. Swenson says he’s hoping the commission will come around and eventually approve the pay raises they vetoed earlier this week.
The Lincoln County Commission on Tuesday voted 4-1 to deny 10% pay raises to sheriff’s deputies that other county employees will be receiving. Yet some of the commissioners who voted no say they’re open to revisiting the issue soon. But Sheriff Steve Swenson calls it a poor decision.
“It’s done a lot of damage to the morale of the men and women that are out on the roads 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It was just a huge hit,” Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Swenson said.
Swenson says Lincoln County can’t recruit new deputies if the department doesn’t pay competitive wages. Commission Chair Tiffani Landeen was the lone vote in favor of the pay raise.
“So, I guess what I was trying to do was at least stop the bleeding a little bit and try to fix that, at least to a certain extent,” Landeen said.
Following the vote, Sheriff Swenson decided to give the deputies who missed out on the pay raise $500 dollar bonuses from his re-election campaign fund.
“I talked to some of my supporters and some of my campaign staff, my attorney, and we felt it was the right thing to do,” Swenson said.
Swenson said the total payout amounts to $11,000.
“I think it’s awesome. He basically gave them his raise. So yeah, I think it’s awesome,” Landeen said.
Two of the commissioners who voted down the pay raise tell KELOLAND News they expect the commission will approve the increases, saying it will be a worthwhile investment by the county to ensure public safety.
Landeen says the funding for the pay raises would come from federal COVID-relief funds so county residents won’t see their taxes go up.
The commission is expected to discuss the issue again at their meeting on Tuesday.