JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Sixteen current and nine former MBN agents are suing the Department of Public Safety, Commissioner Marshall Fisher, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and Director John Dowdy, saying they were denied pay raises they should have gotten under state law.
The suit, filed last Wednesday, details how Senate Bill 2500 was passed to compensate sworn officers of the Department of Public Safety according to a salary scale that included previous non-DPS law enforcement experience.
The law, which became effective in January 2016, prompted some agents to submit letters documenting their prior experience so their current salary could be adjusted.
Efforts to reach DPS and MBN for comment or clarification have so far gone unanswered.
In an example used, Plaintiff Evan Storr submitted his qualifications and was answered by then-Chief Legal Counsel and Chief of Staff Allison Killebrew explaining that in spite of the law, the budget was not adjusted to reflect the raises needed, nor language to address the back pay.
In spite of that, another MBN agent had been granted a raise and a promotion based on his previous experience, the court documents say. Killebrew stated that she understood why he and other agents were asking, but that the money wasn’t there.
The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs were informed during the summer that Fisher had “put a stop” to MBN paying their overdue salary adjustments. It goes on to allege that DPS officials have failed to provide the Legislative Budget Office and the State Fiscal Officer with information on how much needed to be budgeted in order to pay the agents the backpay they believe they are owed.
Court documents say MBN Agent Hunter Huff brought his law enforcement experience to the attention of his captain, Billy Ray Warner, who met with officials about Huff’s qualifications.
Based on Huff’s experience, he was reclassified from Agent I, making $38,000 a year to Agent II, making $41,000 a year.
Meanwhile, Agent Jerry Stewart, who works in the same district, requested the same consideration and was denied, the lawsuit claims.
“At that point, other MBN Agents were going to push the issue, but with the MBN’s history of retaliation against Agents who challenge the Administration, those Agents were reluctant to pursue the issue farther on an individual basis,” the lawsuit says on page 11-12.
It did not give specific examples of how the agency had allegedly retaliated against agents who challenged the administration.
The plaintiffs are asking for unpaid compensation and benefits dating back to January 1, 2016 to the present as well as compensation for overtime, compensatory time accrued, contributions paid to PERS, as well as “all other forms of denied and/or reduced compensation and benefits from January 1, 2016 to the present as a result of the Defendants’ actions and inactions.
This is a developing story.