The last meeting of the current Wilson County Commission saw the passage of the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget, which included a 1.5 percent raise for all general fund and library employees by a vote of 21-3 with one abstention.
Commissioners Frank Bush of District 8, Nathan Clariday of District 10 and Clint Thomas of District 13 voted no. Bush was re-elected to his seat in the Aug. 7 County General Election, while Clariday did not run for re-election. Thomas was defeated by Sonja Robinson in for his seat.
District 23 Commissioner Bernie Ash, who was defeated in his bid for re-election by Sue Vanatta, abstained from voting per County Commission rules. Because he was a county commissioner when he was hired as a county employee as Director of Veterans Affairs, state law requires him to abstain from voting on budget issues that directly impact him.
State law allows county commissioners who were already employed by the county in any capacity to read a declaration that their vote answers to their conscious and their constituents before casting their vote.
What was not approved, but discussed, was a raise for the county commission members themselves.
A resolution brought by Bush and originally on the agenda that would have tied county commission pay to the cost of living increase received by constitutional office holders as determined by the state was pulled.
However, Commissioner Randy Hall, who was defeated by Jim Emberton in his re-election bid, brought an amendment to budget resolution that would have given commissioners $50 per day for each county commission committee meeting they attend.
The motion was seconded by District 14 Commissioner Jeff Joines, who said the reason he seconded it was “because we’ve had a problem in the past with people not coming to committee meetings.”
Joines said he viewed this as an incentive to get them to come.
District 5 Commissioner Jerry McFarland asked Mayor Randall Hutto if he was in favor of the increase, which was not included in the 2014-2015 budget.
“Commissioner McFarland, let me answer your question with a question. Who decides when you get a raise? The state decides when I get a raise. You decide when everybody else gets a raise. Who decides when you get a raise?” Hutto replied.
However, before any pay changes may occur, Wilson County Commission Rule 55 must be amended, suspended or modified, which would require 17 votes. Rule 55 reads: “Each county commissioner shall receive the sum of $400 per month as payment for their service as county commissioner and service on any and all committees.”
According to County Attorney Mike Jennings, Rule 55 does not apply to the Road Commission, though, as that is governed by the 1961 Private Act.
However, had the amendment not been modified Monday night, it would have included the Road Commission members as well.
Bush said that he pulled his resolution because it appeared to him “that the Rules Committee needs to adjust that particular rule, or remove it entirely, before we have the ability to make any decisions in this body.”
District 20 Commission Annette Stafford said she would prefer to see a flat rate, instead of any increase based on committee meetings.
Discussion ensued regarding whether the $50 per committee meeting would be for each meeting or would be the maximum per day, as on the Thursday that falls 11 days before the monthly commission meeting, as many as five committees may meet that day with some commissioners serving on several of them.
Hall said revising his amendment to placing a $50 cap per day would be fine.
However, at the end, the amendment, which would also have changed Rule 55, failed to garner 17 votes. The final vote was 15 yes, nine nays and one abstention.
Voting in favor were Becky Sevier, District 1, Terry Duncan, District 2; McFarland; Kenny Reich, District 6; Terry Scruggs, District 7; Joines; Mike Justice, District 15; Gary Keith, District 17; Terry Muncher, District 18; William Glover, District 19; Eugene Murray, District 21; Wendell Marlowe; District 22; Ash; Paul Abercrombie, District 24; and Hall.
Voting against were Chad Barnard, District 4; Bush; Sara Patton, District 9; Clariday; Jim Bradshaw, District 11; Billy Rowland, District 12; Thomas; Jason Brockman, District 16, and Stafford. Dan Walker of District 3 abstained.
“The new commission will determine if they want to start the process of reviewing the pay scale of county commissioners,” Jennings said.
Amelia Morrison Hipps is a correspondent for The Wilson Post. She may be reached at email@example.com.