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Labor: 19 Hours; FOIA Request: $324.25; Mismanaged Jail: Priceless


There's doing hard time at the Richmond City Jail — and then there's having a hard time at the Richmond City Jail. A really hard time appears to be what Richmond Sheriff's Office employees have when it comes to operating the database and spreadsheet software they use for payroll.

A Freedom of Information Act request to Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr.'s office in March attempting to obtain jail staff salary information required 19 hours and at least three staff members — including two supervisors — to complete.

The requested information amounted to six pages of employee data culled directly from the sheriff's payroll database. Included in the information were the first and last names of 86 deputies, their ranks, recent promotions or demotions, and their salaries.

According to a breakdown of the costs for extracting the data, provided in a letter from Woody, the chore required an intense amount of labor: a payroll manager for three hours, the human resources manager for an hour and at least one human resources staff member who contributed 15 hours to the project.

Among the data provided: C.T. Woody III, son of Sheriff Woody, who was promoted within months of being hired to the rank of lieutenant with a salary of $57,200.

The cost of the FOIA request work was $324.25, according to a letter from Sheriff Woody. (He also broke down the cost of a second, separate FOIA-related bill for $163.26 for seven hours of work.)

In an effort to confirm the cost of the services rendered, Style called an expert in database management. We told him what we were told by sheriff's officials: that the information requested had to be pulled from an antiquated database system that is currently used by the sheriff's office to maintain its payroll.

"I don't think it would take more than three hours at the most," says a skeptical Edwin Huertas, chief technology officer at Richmond technology consulting firm Tec-Head. "Even using a manual process …19 hours is a lot. It's almost like three days of work.

"Organization, I think, is the key," Huertas says, suggesting that even printing out their entire database and then manually keying in the information requested into a separate spreadsheet would have taken less than 19 hours. "If they are well-organized, even in a manual process, it's not going to take that many hours."

The FOIA request was used as part of a Style cover story, "Trouble on the Block," published March 21. The story documented low morale, nepotism and operational errors at the sheriff's office since the election of Sheriff Woody. S

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