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Adair County Fiscal Court 12 Jan 2016 - Report

Court passes raise, but it's called "laughable" by private citizen. County Judge says he was told by State Auditors that he must turn in expenses ordinarily charged to the county, and which he has not done in his first year in office. Court argues, but comes to no conclusion, on issue of Deputy CJE, CFO, and Road Foreman being classified as hourly or salaried employees.
This is one of several stories on the court meeting which will be posted today, with links along the way

By Ed Waggener

Last night's regular session of Adair Fiscal Court was long, lasting over two and one-half hours, lively, and held some surprising moments.

The court approved a 30-cent-per-hour raise, across the board for hourly workers. Criticism, though, of the tiny raise, came not from employees, nor were there protests from the no-taxes-no-time-no-way-never-ever folks. This time it was from citizens in the gallery who appreciate all the services the county renders. Ken Edwards, an Adair Countian who was formerly a county worker in Florida, was the first to speak out, telling the court that the raise was laughable. "If you are going to keep good employees, keep your good people in the county," he said, "You're going to have to pay them."

The other surprise, for many, was that CJE Mike Stephens told the court that state auditors had called his hand on not billing the county for his expenses. "They told me that that I have to turn in expenses," he said, adding that otherwise the county would be cited on future audits.
Ken Edwards' sentiment was echoed by Margo Miller, who also spoke to the issue which took up most of the time during the session - whether the road foreman, the deputy county judge executive and the county finance officer should be salaried or paid on an hourly basis. She suggested that the investment in a consultation with a labor lawyer should put the county on the right track.

Judge Stephens had presented the court with a dilemma he thinks the county faces on its State Audit. He said that the auditors have questioned the pay plan for the Deputy County Judge Executive, Holly Grimsley and for the County Finance Officer, Gale Cowan.

He said that he was told by the auditors that an hourly rate must be stated if, as voted by the Fiscal Court, the deputy and the finance officer would be paid on an hourly basis, capped at $38,000 each. Prior to that, both had been paid at hourly rates, with overtime approximating the $38,000 annual salary Judge Stephens proposed.

Judge Stephens said that he is getting contradictory signals on the benchmark for a salaried person not to be required to track hours. He said that he had been told it was $52,000 at one time when, he, himself told the court hourly pay is mandatory for his deputy CJE and the county finance office.

Although he said he still searching for the answer, he thought that the most likely pre-emptory strike would be for the court to make three positions salaried: The County Road Foreman, at $40,000 per year; and the Deputy County Judge Executive and County Finance Officer at $38,000 each.

County Attorney Jennifer Hutchison-Corbin did not have an immediate answer and noted she had only been aware of the issue minutes before the meeting.

For now, the matter is hangfire.

Judge Stephens said the difference for the county in doing the right thing before being cited by the auditors is that if the auditors take the time to research a proposal, they would charge state auditor fees.

He said that the audit now underway is a routine, at least every four year on by the state, which charges a minimum of $45,000 for the audit, up to $90,000, depending on the how long they stay in the office for the audit. By contrast, he said that the county pays its own outside auditor $15,000.

This story was posted on 2016-01-13 07:45:33
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