BY SANDI P. BEASON

Daily Journal

After the Friday layoffs of four full-time sheriff's deputies, Itawamba County Sheriff Leon Hayes says other department members are pitching in to make up for the loss.

"We have part-time help that is going to be filling in slots, doing whatever is necessary," he said Wednesday. "I'm going to be working the road myself. ... Some of the people, dispatchers and jailers who are off duty on their off days are willing to volunteer their time to transport folks that need to go to the doctor, and whatever they need to do, what we've been using full-time deputies to do."

On Friday, deputies Russ Gordon, Keith Hargett and Chris Loden, along with Investigator Brian Rushing, were told of their layoffs.

Hayes, who lost his re-election bid in the Aug. 26 primary runoff to retired Highway Patrolman Philip Crane, cited financial reasons, not political ones.

"We're making sure the county is protected and has law enforcement like it's always had," Hayes said. "That's what it's all about."

Money matters

The sheriff and the four former deputies appeared at Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Supervisors, when the sheriff's department budget was discussed.

"We learned that the budget we get paid out of is not in the red yet, but it would be next payday," Rushing said. "They offered to amend the budget - some did and some did not."

In the meantime, he is looking for a job.

"The thing that makes us wonder about this, if the budget is bad, why lay off four full-time officers?" he asked. "I was the only criminal investigator in the county. There is no criminal investigator in the county now. He laid off four full-time officers and he's keeping part-time officers. Nobody can explain the logic in that."

Hayes said Rushing had been an investigator for only two months at the time of the layoffs, and a narcotics investigator is now handling criminal investigation cases.

"The reason the part-time deputies were kept aboard, part-time folks make less money," Hayes said.

"The jail budget, the 911 budget and the sheriff's budget are all in the red. ... (Supervisors) were not willing to amend to the point of bringing anybody back."

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