A proposed ordinance that would change the salaries of three employees of the Jefferson County Tax Collector’s Office was recommended for approval by a committee of the Quorum Court Tuesday, but not before a debate that centered on hiring.
Tax Collector Tony Washington, who took office Jan. 1, said in a letter to County Judge Gerald Robinson and to members of the county’s legislative body that he wanted to reduce the salaries of two employees by $1,000 each and give the $2,000 generated to an employee he had hired to serve as chief deputy.
“When I won the position in May, I started looking for a person (with experience),” Washington said during the committee meetings. “We (the office) lost a lot of experience, and I asked a young lady from Columbia County to come here, and she accepted.”
Washington said that with the retirement of former Tax Collector Stephanie Stanton and her chief deputy, the office lost 71 years of experience.
“I see this as bad business,” said Justice of the Peace Dr. Herman Ginger. “If a person retires, you do not hire into that office. Second, if you take money away from slots and give it to another person, you can’t give it back, and that destroys morale.”
Earlier this year, Robinson asked each county elected official and department head to cut one position as a way to save money, and Washington said he “would take care of his part.”
“I can’t tell a department head who to let go,” Robinson said. “They have the right to choose the person, and they have the right to choose their second in command.”
Under the proposal, the salary of one deputy would be cut from $41,000 to $40,000, and the second would be cut from $38,000 to $37,000. The salary for Washington’s new chief deputy would increase from $34,000 to $36,000.
Justice of the Peace Alfred Carroll, who was off the Quorum Court for several years before winning a seat back, said: “We’re doing exactly what we said we were not going to do.”
Carroll cast the only no vote during the committee meeting.
In other business, Robinson called an emergency meeting of the full court to deal with an appropriation ordinance to pay a Jonesboro company that had done roof repairs on county buildings after the March 2018 hail storm.
The emergency ordinance was necessary because the county had not received insurance reimbursements in a timely manner and would have been subject to a $75,000 surcharge.
The company that supplied the roofing materials to the contractor was going to impose the surcharge on them, which they would have passed along to the county.
Curtis White, who worked for former County Judge Booker Clemons and handled the paperwork for the repairs, said he had contacted the insurance company numerous times from the end of November through the end of December, adding that Robinson’s office had also contacted the company asking them to issue the checks to no avail.
“They also didn’t follow the procedure we set up,” White said, explaining that the county had asked the company to send individual checks based on invoices from Jonesboro Roofing, the company that did the work. Instead, the company sent one check to cover the full amount.
White said Jonesboro Roofing was selected for the job after 30 companies, including several local companies, were contacted about the work, and many of those companies did not submit bids.
Justice of the Peace Ted Harden, who chairs the Finance Committee, said the county will net $120,000 after the bills are paid.
“The jobs are all done except the courthouse, and it will be done soon,” White said.
On Wednesday morning, rain was leaking into a number of spots on the second floor of the courthouse, including in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and in the hallway outside that office.
Also Tuesday, a proposed ordinance to approve paying members of the Jefferson County Election Commission $35 per hour to perform work over and above their normal duties, such as programming voting machines and the like, was pulled and not considered.