MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Officially the deputy works in crime prevention, but then there's his basketball assignment.
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement at a Tigers game. With all the action on the court, you may not have noticed Shelby County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Faulkner. He's on the sideline, sitting behind the team, on the court before the game, or following Coach Pastner.
You're paying for the deputy to attend home and away games, even practices. Shelby County Commissioners just learned about the deputy's good deal.
"I don't know why we should be subsidizing U of M basketball for anything," stated Commissioner Mike Ritz.
Commissioner Heidi Shafer asked, "They need security, but is it our responsibility to pay for it?"
Shelby County could be 60 to 100 million dollars short going into next year's budget. On top of that, the Shelby County Sheriff recently asked for the emergency hire of 35 deputies to provide security for the soon-to-be merged Memphis City-Shelby County school district. Big cuts to services or a tax hike is looming.
"This is the time where we have to flush out every single cost and justify every expenditure before we go to the taxpayers and say, 'We've got to have more money,'" Shafer said.
When it comes to money, Faulkner's making plenty of it. The university pays for his food and motel, and Shelby County taxpayers pick up his overtime tab.
Faulkner's base pay is around $52,000. He made an additional $32,000 in overtime, the majority from Tiger duty. Add that up and it's more than $85,000 per year.
Records show he some times racks up as much as 50 to 70 hours of overtime each pay period.
Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham says the arrangement was in place before he took office, but defends the decision to let Faulkner travel with the team.
"It's a gig that's important, that requires relations with staff at the venues and he has been doing it for a number of years," said Sheriff Oldham. "I make these decisions as the Sheriff of Shelby County and will continue to do so as to what assignments we have and how they are used."
The big question is, why doesn't the University of Memphis police provide security for the basketball team? After all, campus police travel with their football team.
According to U of M Police Director Bruce Harber, "We kind of rotate it around so there is not one person doing it all the time; anyone who wants to do it has the opportunity," he said. "We could do basketball… We have never been asked to do basketball."
Commissioners also wonder if a deputy is traveling with the team, why isn't the university reimbursing the county for Faulkner's overtime instead of falling on the shoulders of Shelby County taxpayers.
"The U of M could pay for it if they think it's important," Ritz said. "If they don't think it's important, then it doesn't get done."
"I think U of M should take up the slack and pay for it themselves," added Commissioner Sidney Chism.
Oldham says he has saved taxpayers millions since taking office, but when it comes to Tiger basketball next season, "We'll evaluate this at the end of the year and make a determination if we want to continue."
We'll have to see what the sheriff decides. In the meantime, county commissioners say they plan on asking a lot of questions about this during budget sessions.