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Firings and layoffs may be in Dallas County's future because of budget issues

Dallas County
Dallas County Andrew Sommerman detailed budget recommendations at Tuesday's commissioners court meeting. Commissioners raised concerns about possible abuses of overtime and medical leave — and not being told that the sheriff's department was over budget.

Firings and layoffs are on the table to correct Dallas County budget concerns.

Costs could be $50 million over budget if nothing changes.

The budget office and Commissioner Andrew Sommerman each presented recommendations on Tuesday at the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting.

High overtime and some medical leave pay in the sheriff and juvenile departments raised suspicions of abuse. Some employees reported working 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sommerman said an alarm should have been raised.

"In October, we spent approximately $2.2 [million]. In November, we spent $2.4 [million]," he said. "Sometime in December, we hit the year's budget. If I'd known that back then, we could have course corrected perhaps faster, but I didn't know.

Commissioner John Wiley Price says some employees appear to be gaming federal medical protections.

"There are some serial abusers. You can tell when people are serially abusing," he said. "'You got to stay over time.' 'Oh my doctor said my back I can't stay' ... this stuff, it kills us."

The sheriff's department and jail so far have spent almost $13 million on overtime. That's more than $7 million over budget.

Got a tip? Email Marina Trahan Martinez at You can follow Marina at @HisGirlHildy.

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Marina Trahan Martinez is KERA's Dallas County government accountability reporter. She's a veteran journalist who has worked in the Dallas area for many years. Prior to coming to KERA, she was on The Dallas Morning News Watchdog investigative and accountability team with Dave Lieber. She has written for The New York Times since 2001, following the 9/11 attacks. Many of her stories for The Times focused on social justice and law enforcement, including Botham Jean's murder by a Dallas police officer and her subsequent trial, Atatiana Jefferson's shooting death by a Fort Worth police officer, and protests following George Floyd's murder. Marina was part of The News team that a Pulitzer finalist for coverage of the deadly ambush of Dallas police officers in 2016.