The Marion County Commission approved county engineer Mike Shaw’s recommendation to reclassify and “adjust” the pay of his employees.
Who are the employees involved? What exactly are the pay adjustments? We certainly didn’t know without having to do some digging.
On the agenda handed to the Journal Record before the meeting began, the topic we are discussing now was simply labeled, “Mike Shaw - Various.”
The topic may have been labeled “various”, but the only thing that was approved was Shaw’s recommendation.
Not a single name, or dollar amount, was openly discussed by the commissioners before they voted to approve Shaw’s recommendation on the day of the meeting.
Shaw told the Journal Record that the list of names and salaries prepared for the meeting was created that day before the meeting took place. The commissioners would not have seen that list before hand as it was not on the agenda, so why was there no open discussion?
The commissioners and Shaw did go into executive session to discuss, according to them, the good name and character of an individual.
But, we have to wonder if Shaw’s recommendation was at all discussed since they voted on a topic not discussed in the open meeting.
Commissioners Bobby Burleson, Dale Holt and Keith Nichols approved Shaw’s recommendation while chairman Tim “Ears” Estes did not vote and Kenneth Cochran abstained as his brother, Kent Cochran, was among those receiving a pay increase and reclassification.
It was only until after the meeting on Monday, Oct. 21, that the Journal Record was able to obtain the list of names and salaries of those involved.
The individuals recieving raises are Jason Taylor, Kent Cochran, Marv Alvis, Barney Shackelford, Melody Lacey and Brandy Bowling.
(Job descriptions and par raise specifics can be found on page 1A in the article titled “Pay raises approved by commissioners.”)
Now, we at the Journal Record are not too bothered about the fact that a tiny bit of digging had to be done to discover information that should be open to the public and easy to access. After all, that’s all a part of our job and there are open records.
What is truly interesting to us, however, is how the commission justifies raising pay just weeks after putting a freeze on new hires and overtime hours as well as cutting holiday pay for the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and, to be more blunt, why did the commission go as far as to declare a hiring freeze, when the commission itself can hire—or not hire—an employee?
No doubt, it may be a smart move to pass the responsibilities to the remaining employees as opposed to hiring a new worker to replace Curtis Self after he quit—Shaw told the Journal Record that the county saves the taxpayers approximately $20,000 by doing so—but raising anyone’s pay after hearing the complaints from the sheriff’s deputies not too long ago seems like a not-so-good idea.
No doubt there will be some rumblings and grumblings among the Marion County Sheriff’s Department deputies who, during the budget meeting, voiced their discontent with the county, stating that they felt “under-appreciated.”
Perhaps this is a smart move on paper for Mike Shaw and his staff, but in the grand scheme of things, this is not a good look for the county after they have already cut so much and denied others the opportunity of overtime hours and holiday pay.
Regardless of whether we approve of this vote or not, one thing is for certain, all information and discussion concerning employee salary should be discussed openly at all times, no exceptions.
The public should not have to dig for information that should be readily available to them in an open meeting.