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Spotsylvania offering to pay for deputies’ overtime

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Spotsylvania County is offering to pay two years of overtime that is due to each of the sheriff’s deputies who say they are owed a total of $500,000.

The Board of Supervisors approved the proposal this week after meeting behind closed doors.

About 150 current and former deputies filed a federal lawsuit in January alleging that Spotsylvania didn’t follow a 2005 state law requiring it to pay time-and-a-half to those who work more than 160 hours in a 28-day period.

That “gap pay” threshold is 11 hours less than the federal standard for overtime.

Deputies who agree to Spotsylvania’s offer must release the defendants from liability. It’s unclear exactly how much money Spotsylvania would have to pay.

The suit is still active, though both parties had a conference call today and a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

The gap pay law was championed by attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli when he was a state senator. Spotsylvania opposed it, saying the first-year cost would be $414,000, the plaintiffs wrote in court papers.

“Spotsylvania County made no effort to apprise its officers of the statute’s passage and took affirmative steps to deny the obligations it had represented to the General Assembly,” the suit says.

Spotsylvania Sheriff Roger Harris, who is named as a defendant along with the county, said earlier this year that county officials corrected the gap-pay issue shortly after the suit was filed. Harris took office in 2012, well after the issues surfaced.

Deputies who agree to Spotsylvania’s offer will receive overtime for the two years before Spotsylvania made the fix.

Maj. Don Thodos of the Sheriff’s Office, who is a plaintiff in the suit, said he couldn’t comment at this time. Efforts to reach the plaintiffs’ attorneys were unsuccessful.

The lawsuit mirrors others filed by law enforcement officers in Richmond, Winchester, Chesterfield County and other localities. In July 2012, about 600 retired and active Richmond police officers collected $7 million in unpaid overtime.

Spotsylvania officials hired outside counsel to represent them in the case. Their attorney could not be reached for comment.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402