A proposed ordinance that would have required all Jefferson County employees to be paid by direct deposit was modified on Monday and now only those newly hired will be required to do so.
By a 12-1 vote, the Jefferson County Quorum Court approved the measure which will permit current employees who currently receive a paper check to continue to do so, although those employees will be told the advantages of direct deposit, including getting their money faster.
“It would be wonderful, but in the middle of the ball game you change the rules,” Justice of the Peace Roy Agee said.
County Clerk Shawndra Taggart, who pushed for the idea, passed out information showing that the county spends $900 annually to buy checks, $45.39 per pay period for envelopes, postage and sealing, $132 for ink cartridges to print the checks, and a possible $35 fee for lost or stop payment checks per check.
Taggart said last year, the county spent nearly $30,000 for a maintenance software contract, and that fee is increasing to more than $32,000 this year, an increase of almost $3,000.
She said that currently, 303 county employees have signed up for direct deposit, while another 89 are paid by a paper check. She said employees will still receive statements showing their deductions by mail, just as they have in the past.
Justice of the Peace Mandy Alford was the only member of the Quorum Court to vote no after she expressed the belief that even new employees should have the option of direct deposit or a paper check.
With no dissent, the Quorum Court also approved an appropriation ordinance calling for $57,395.54 to compensate four former employees of the County Judge’s Office for vacation and comp time that they said they had earned before they retired, resigned or were fired.
Before that vote, former County Judge Dutch King said he had “not been able to sleep at night” since he heard about the amount of comp time claimed by one former employee, Daniel Marks, who was the legislative assistant, grants director and director of recycling operations under King.
According to sheets Marks turned in after he was fired Jan. 3, he had accrued 1,049.15 hours of compensatory time, 482.67 hours of sick leave and 340 hours of vacation.
According to a county ordinance, employees are able to accrue 80 hours of compensatory time that can be carried over, and anything above that requires the approval of the employees supervisor.
King said that Marks actually was given additional compensation when he became director of recycling and solid waste, with those funds coming from a grant rather than county general money, and he worked extra hours to perform those duties.
“I signed off on the pay raise but he never worked 40 hours a week,” King said, adding his belief that if Marks was trying to get something he didn’t earn, he was stealing.
“I may have worked 2,000 hours, but nobody else did,” King said.
County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV, who replaced King on Jan. 1, said Marks kept his own hours and turned in over 1,000 hours of comp time, along with several hundred hours of vacation.
“He not only took vacation he took a lot of time off,” King said.
According to a complaint form Marks filed with the Arkansas Department of Labor, his pay, as well as that of three other people, was increased because of the new duties and responsibilities, and King mandated that all employees who received the increases were to work 46 hours per week. The complaint also said the employees were not entitled to comp time for that mandatory overtime despite working more than 40 hours per week. Compensatory time could only be earned for time worked over 46 hours per week.
Before the vote, Justice of the Peace Dr. Conley Byrd asked Wilkins, “In light of the comments from former Judge King, are you satisfied that this is an appropriate settlement?”
“Yes,” Wilkins said.
A proposal that would have created a compliance officer for the county, whose duties would have included creating, managing and updating systems to keep track of employee time and attendance, failed to get out of committee when it did not get a motion and second to advance the proposal on three tries by Finance Committee Chairman Ted Harden.
That prompted Justice of the Peace Jimmy Fisher, who is chairman of the Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee, to complain that his committee did not get an opportunity to discuss this proposal.
“This is something that is not going to fix itself,” Fisher said. “It is not going to go away.”
“Anything deals with money has to go to the Finance Committee, and it has to pass finance,” Harden said. “I asked for a motion and there were the same four people as last week, and it died for lack of a motion. It can be brought back at a later date.”
Wilkins told Harden he was wrong, and the issue could have been brought back up by a motion to suspend the rules, but such a motion was not forthcoming.
Also, an ordinance allowing the fee that the county is charged by Waste Management for garbage pickup to increase by $2.50 monthly was approved. The rate will increase from $16.60 per month to $19.10 per month. Those fees are passed along to county residents. The fee will take effect immediately.