Judge holds contempt hearing over Missouri’s refusal to pay judgment for corrections officers

ST. LOUIS – Corrections officers say the state of Missouri has completely ignored a jury’s order to cough up more than $113 million in shorted pay; a judgment that’s now more than $119 million with interest and climbing.

The judge allowed a camera in the courtroom as corrections officers' attorney Gary Burger said the State continues to short officers’ pay.

“As we sit here today, your honor, class members are forced to do pre and post-shift activity and they’re not being paid for it,” Burger said. “Today!”

Missouri maintains corrections’ officers don’t get paid when they first arrive at the prison. Instead, they’re ordered to first get their safety equipment, go through security checkpoints, and gather intelligence before they’re officially on the clock.

Assistant Attorney General Mary Reitz explained why it’s too expensive for the state to start paying.

“If that money is spent now, to pay the extra $750,000 a month, what’s going to happen is, at the end of the year, we’re not going to have enough money to keep the guards in place to pay,” she said.

Reitz said the Missouri Department of Corrections will soon begin tracking all time with a new computerized time clock system but that won’t change the number of hours the state will pay.

“The timekeeping system will go in regardless of this, whether the time is paid is what’s up on appeal,” she said.

It’s that pending appeal, Reitz argued, as the reason why the judge should not find Missouri in contempt for failing to pay a now $119 million judgment over shorted pay while continuing to hold out.

The judge could decide at any time. Meanwhile, the amount taxpayers owe is still rising at more than $1.5 million a month. That tally won’t stop until Missouri pays up or gets another judge to change course.

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