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Sheriff says auditors asking questions because former sheriff has "vendetta"

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The State Division of Local Government Audit is asking questions about overtime pay at the Unicoi County Sheriff's Department, but Sheriff Mike Hensley says he is not concerned one bit, because his department "hasn't done anything wrong."

Auditors are looking into concerns about why the department's chief deputy is receiving overtime pay. Through documents provided to us by the sheriff's department we found out Chief Deputy Frank Rogers has worked more than 260 hours since July, making more than $7,200 in overtime during that time, many of those days for working weekends. That is on top of his annual take home pay, which is around $38,000.

"We started asking questions too," Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said. "There's a lot of questions that have to be answered before they determine if there was a mistake made. If they did something wrong I don't think it was on purpose. The question is just because of the nature of the position, is the chief deputy an exempt employee for overtime?"

According to Mayor Lynch, he can't remember a chief deputy (including Hensley who previously held the job) ever receiving overtime pay, because traditionally chief deputies were salaried employees.

That said, the sheriff says Rogers is not your traditional chief deputy. Sheriff Hensley says he is an hourly employee and turns in weekly time sheets to prove it.

"In larger departments a chief deputy is more or less administrative, he does more or less administrative work, he sits behind a desk and they are salaried," the sheriff said. "My chief deputy answers calls. He's just like a deputy. He goes out here and works the road."

The sheriff says his chief deputy is also the on-call investigator once a month and is over the county's drug interdiction unit.

"What I've done, I've done by the book," Sheriff Hensley said. "I've not done anything underhandedly. (I have) no concern whatsoever, no concern."

 A review of records revealed Rogers isn't the only officer in the department to receive overtime pay.

The sheriff says he talked with County Technical Assistance Services, an advisory service for counties, and a CTAS representative told him he hasn't done anything wrong, especially considering his chief deputy's job duties.

That is not all the sheriff said. For the first time Sheriff Hensley is publicly speaking out against former sheriff Kent Harris. Right in the middle of an election year Hensley says Harris is targeting his department as retaliation.

"He is convinced in his mind that I turned against him," Hensley said. "What he thinks is I turned on him, that I took his job. I've been targeted ever since I've become sheriff. He's got a vendetta against me."

Harris admits he was one of the people to alert state auditors about the overtime situation. He also says he alerted them last year about sick pay the sheriff's administrative assistant received improperly, something the sheriff called an honest mistake.

Harris says he still believes Hensley tried to take his job after Harris fell. That fall eventually led to medical issues, which resulted in Harris leaving the sheriff's office.

"You have to forgive, but you don't have to forget how you were done," Harris said.

Without a doubt, Harris has remained outspoken about his successor, taking every chance he can to call out the department. Although bitter, Harris says every time he has raised questions about the department it has had nothing to do with the past. He says his decision to raise concerns is not an effort to retaliate.

"This is not about retaliation, this is about mismanagement, this is about wasting tax dollars, it's about paying people that are not due the pay," Harris said.

Hensley believes Harris has ulterior motives.

"I pray for the former sheriff," Hensley said. "He left here for medical reasons. Why did he leave? Because he had a brain injury."

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