Discussion about the need for a county compliance officer and whose office that person should work out of dominated the monthly meeting of the Jefferson County Quorum Court committees Tuesday night.
The proposed ordinance would place the person under the sheriff’s office, but several members of the county’s legislative body said that because the person would be looking at a wide variety of areas and county offices, they should be under the direct supervision of County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV instead.
“It is logical to me that it should be under your office, and there should be memorandums of understanding with the other elected officials,” Justice of the Peace Dr. Conley Byrd said. “I don’t see anything that would prevent us from creating a slot in your office.”
The proposed ordinance calls for the person to be paid a salary of $48,000 annually, with $15,000 of that coming from the judge’s office, $20,000 from the road department, which falls under the judge’s office, $13,000 from Public Safety funds and the remaining $11,000 from E-Waste.
“Seventy-two percent of the money is coming from your office so they should be your employee,” Justice of the Peace Dr. Herman Ginger said.
According to a sheet prepared by Wilkins’ transition team, several areas would be under the purview of the compliance officer, such as an analysis of current maintenance agreements and contracts with outside vendors.
Former Justice of the Peace Lloyd Franklin II, who is a transition team member, cited one example of that: A firewall expense that has not been updated in years. A check with the manufacturer indicated that the device was discontinued and past its life expectancy. The county has still been paying $800 per month per department for that firewall.
Another area would be the creation of a government email for all Jefferson County employees, since many of them are currently using their personal email accounts for work-related business.
Also, Franklin said that currently, there is no central location for keeping track of CDL licensing, saying that employees of the road department who are being paid for driving could in fact be cutting grass because there is no central location to review those licenses.
Wilkins said the job description for the compliance officer carries 24 duties and responsibilities and will bring the county “into state compliance, which we are not currently in.”
He said that currently, the county could be technically liable for “almost three-quarters of a million dollars, and it’s horrifying the idea of having to pay out that much and what it would do to our budget.”
That money is the result of overtime and compensatory time claimed by a number of current and former employees.
The compliance officer would also set up a uniform system of tracking employee time and attendance to reduce fiscal responsibility and save money.
“I am going to be meeting with every elected official and see if we can work out a schedule to reduce some of that compensatory time,” Wilkins said.
“We have to be pro-active,” said Franklin, who did not seek another term in the 2016 election. “There are so many new innovations, and we have to move forward and give our people the tools to do their job.”
The proposal was tabled at the urging of Finance Committee Chairman Ted Harden so it could be “tweaked” and will be brought back during the regular meeting of the court next Monday.
Also tabled was a proposed ordinance that would have required all county employees to received their checks by direct deposit, rather than a printed check.
Asked by Byrd where that proposal came from, County Clerk Shawndra Taggart said the idea was hers.
She cited several instances where clerk’s office personnel had to do research after checks were lost, which, in her words, put the office in “a difficult situation. If everybody did direct deposit, we wouldn’t have had to do the research.”
Sandra Graves, who was formerly the payroll deputy clerk and now works at the road department, said that another consideration is the cost of the checks, as well as postage, as well as the time it takes to prepare the checks. In addition, the county could be held liable by the bank if they have to stop payment on a lost check.
“So far we haven’t had to but that is a possibility,” Graves said.
Justice of the Peace Roy Agree said, “I like to get a check in my hand, and it should be at the discretion of the employee.”
“I would like to see dollar figures to know how much we’re saving time wise and dollar wise,” Byrd said.
Franklin said that the county “is a business and we have to modernize and move forward.”
“Direct deposit is actually safer and more secure than checks,” he said.