Senate-approved bill would ban Vermont sheriffs from giving themselves bonuses
The Vermont Senate has passed a bill aimed at providing greater oversight of the state's 14 independently-elected county sheriffs.
S. 17 comes after a spate of controversies and alleged misconduct involving sheriffs last year — including a sheriff who refused to resign after being arrested on sexual assault charges and another who gave himself and his employees questionable bonuses.
The legislature is limited in what it can do to increase oversight of sheriffs because they're elected county officials. A constitutional amendment would be required to make major changes. But the bill before the Senate would make at least one significant adjustment: it would bar sheriffs from giving themselves bonuses.
Currently, sheriffs are allowed to take a 5% cut from department contracts — that's on top their baseline salary of $94,085 (which is set to increase to $97,754 in July, according to statue).
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Addison County Sen. Ruth Hardy, speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, said nearly all the state's sheriffs gave themselves a bonus last year.
"All together 11 of the 14 sheriff's took more than $10,000 in some cases more than $40,000 in bonuses," she said.
The bill passed the Senate 24 to 6 on Thursday. It now goes to the Vermont House.
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