Highly paid Monterey County sheriff’s sergeant gets his job back Colleagues testify that overtime rules are ignored


By Royal Calkins

Thirteen years ago, a Monterey County sheriff’s staffer was fired and prosecuted for claiming overtime pay for work he allegedly hadn’t performed. But that man, Sgt. Joey Banuelos, was later rehired and the charges dropped after others in the department testified that padded timecards were the norm in the Sheriff’s Office.

To see history repeat itself, jump ahead to 2024 and the rehiring of another sergeant who had been let go for the same thing and is getting his job back for the same reason, along with back pay, legal expenses and more. During the disciplinary proceedings it came out that the Sheriff’s Office had no meaningful procedures to prevent detective Sgt. Bryan Hoskins and others from creative timekeeping and no real system of checks and balances to prevent payroll abuse.

Current sheriff’s officials say they are working to fix the system but they’re not eager to talk about it. Reporting for this story produced lots of “no comments.” Payroll-padding is an unpleasant topic for elected officials, and so is being required to bring back a discharged employee.

The termination of Hoskins and the decision to reinstate him was done outside the public eye. Hoskins could not be reached to comment and his lawyers failed to return phone messages, as did several sheriff’s officials.

Fortunately for fans of transparency, there was some civil litigation along the way so the actual settlement agreement is a public document.

Rightly or not, Hoskins was the department’s highest paid employee in 2021. On top of his base pay of $103,182, he received overtime pay of $263,996 for a total of $427,004. For the year, he made more than anyone in the higher ranks of commander, lieutenant, captain, chief deputy or undersheriff. He made $166,439 more than the sheriff at the time, Steve Bernal. Other hardworking detectives claimed pay nearly as hefty as their sergeant’s.

Some detectives have told friends in the department that their unit would intentionally schedule search warrant service for the evening after everyone involved had already worked a full day shift.

Hoskins’ troubles started when the Bernal administration began an internal investigation in early 2022 that resulted in a “notice of intended termination” in October 2022. That came during a heated sheriff’s race between former sheriff’s Capt. Joe Moses and the winner of that race, Tina Nieto.

A “whistleblower’s” lawsuit Hoskins later filed against the county says he believes he was served with the termination papers at Nieto’s behest after he turned down a request to help secure her a campaign endorsement from a union of sheriff’s supervisors that he headed. He pointed that accusation at Nieto, the current sheriff, though the termination notice was actually the work of the previous administration. The lawsuit doesn’t explain why Bernal, who initially endorsed Moses, would have put pressure on anyone to help Nieto.

In his whistleblower suit, Hoskins also claims he was retaliated against because he stood up for a series of women in the department who were sexually harassed, or worse, by Bernal’s top aide, former Undersheriff Jon Mineau. It may be worth noting that the county had previously paid a retired detective $10,000 after she claimed Hoskins had repeatedly harassed her.

Hoskins’ lawyers also asserted that the internal affairs investigation was prompted by an anonymous letter to the Board of Supervisors alleging payroll fraud by Hoskins and others, along with other improprieties during the Bernal administration. Hoskins’ lawyers said in his suit they believed the letter was sent at the behest of Nieto, but several sheriff’s employees say the letter was sent by a retired captain who was an active Bernal supporter and friend of Moses.

Regardless of its genesis, the notice of intended termination led to a formal appeal hearing, with Nieto’s undersheriff Keith Boyd presiding. Hoskins lost that one. Then there was an appeal hearing, with an outside mediator presiding. Hoskins won this time, after others in the department testified that the overtime procedures were inconsistent and weak to the point that some or more sheriff’s employees routinely approved their own overtime.

If all that is true, the county needs to examine its payroll procedures quickly and deeply. In an expensive county such as Monterey, many employees must be tempted to stretch the truth in order to make a house payment or pay for their commutes to cheaper environs. For some, the temptation must grow when they realize that their pensions are directly linked to their highest-paying years.

Unfortunately for the county, the Board of Supervisors controls the sheriff’s budget but has no direct authority over the department’s payroll and other functions. It doesn’t seem clear whether the rest of county government can require the Sheriff’s Office to improve its internal procedures.

Hoskins’ settlement agreement calls for him to receive back pay of $212,413 and to be credited with 1,301 hours of sick leave.

Significantly, he now will be required to work from home on special projects directed by the undersheriff. Examples listed include researching needed changes in the department’s rules and regulations. Payroll and overtime procedures perhaps? The agreement says he will be discouraged from direct contact with anyone in the department other than Boyd.

Hoskins also gets $350,000 in damages, though it appears from the legal papers that at least some of that will go toward his legal fees.

In addition, the settlement requires the county to pay up to $5,000 for a consultant to attempt to “scrub” the internet of news articles or posts mentioning his overtime issues.

By the way, Banuelos, the previous alleged payroll padder, remains with the department as a commander, one step above sergeant. He was fired by Bernal’s predecessor, Scott Miller, and rehired by Bernal. According to the Transparent California website, his base pay last year was $169,668 supplemented by $18,523 in overtime and $54,803 in “other pay,” for a total of $242,994 not including benefits.

In his case, he was accused of teaching a weapons class for a few hours but claiming a full day and later claiming to have been working while attending a funeral, among other things. He maintained he was only following procedures crafted by Sheriff Miller’s predecessor, Mike Kanalakis, who approved a “flex time” plan no longer allowed under state law.

Banuelos was charged with two felonies, but the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case after learning that many of his colleagues were prepared to testify that they had followed the same practices.

CORRECTION: This article originally and incorrectly reported that overtime pay for law enforcement officers contributes to the calculations for their pensions. Higher overtime doesn’t translate to a bigger pension.

Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter or leave a comment below.



About Royal Calkins

Contributing writer Royal Calkins has worked for newspapers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Fresno. He can be reached at calkinsroyal@gmail.com.

3 thoughts on “Highly paid Monterey County sheriff’s sergeant gets his job back Colleagues testify that overtime rules are ignored

  1. Mr.calkins, it’s sad that you didn’t get your facts correct. The two situations were entirely different. Hoskins and a majority of his coworkers and his managers had no knowledge of the rule he was accused of breaking. To my knowledge the office still hasn’t published the rule. Please don’t buy into political gossip and nastiness.

    1. Kathy P., whose comment is above, was, I believe, the head of MCSO’s Internal Affairs operation before her retirement. I must assume she knows what she’s talking about but I also would welcome a more detailed explanation. What rule was he unknowingly breaking? I understand that on several occasions, Sgt. Hoskins simply approved his own overtime after having scheduled himself to work a day shift knowing that he and associates would be serving warrants that evening. In some cases, I understand that a higher ranking officer testified at Hoskins’ appeal hearing that he had approved the overtime retroactively. Please feel encouraged to provide more info. Perhaps you can also shed some light on the Hedberg case involving medications taken from the infirmary, reportedly without penalty. Thanks

  2. Good heavens! “Hoskins was the department’s highest paid employee in 2021. On top of his base pay of $103,182, he received overtime pay of $263,996 for a total of $427,004.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *