Commission protects administrator’s, engineer’s jobs

Published 8:47 pm Monday, April 9, 2012

Commissioners approved a measure Monday that prohibits the firing of the county administrator and county engineer without cause when the new administration takes over in November.

The measure awarded a five-year contract to county engineer Darren Capps that ends in 2017, and a two-and-a-half year contract with county administrator Brenda Petty, which ends on Dec. 31, 2014. Under Alabama, county commissioners are authorized to enter into a contract with a county engineer for a period not to exceed five years.

Two of the current commissioners, Chairman Lynn Sasser and Commissioner David Ellis, were defeated in the Republican primary. Commissioner Bragg Carter did not seek re-election. Ellis and Carter, along with Commissioners Carl Turman and Harold Elmore, both of whom won the Republican nomination and do not have Democratic opposition, supported the contracts.

Throughout the current election cycle, and during the last election, rumors were rampant of campaign promises to replace the two employees.

“It’s unfair for any employee to be a focal point for any election,” Carter said. “Most of the county administrators and county engineers in the state are on contract. This is something that should’ve been done many years past.

“I don’t think it’s fair that any employee – whatever their capacity – should be pulled into the election process.”

Ellis said Petty and Capps “have been a big part of the success of this county getting back into financial shape, and I think they should be rewarded for it.”

Under the contracts’ terms, compensation for both employees stays at current levels; however, cost of living adjustments and merit raises are allowed and each is to receive sick leave, vacation time and holiday pay. At the fulfillment or termination of the contracts, they are to be paid for all leave time accrued.

If terminated for any other reason than cause, the employee will receive annual salary with increases, leave and holiday pay, as well as all other county benefits, until the end of the agreement.

William “Bill” Godwin and Kylan Lewis, commission chairman candidates in the April 24 runoff, each said they’ve made no campaign promises about employees.

“I can’t hire or fire by myself if elected chairman,” Godwin said. “If it’s the concensus of the commission to make a change, then a change will be made.

“I’ve said I felt that all positions need to be evaluated to see where improvements can be made,” Godwin said. “It’s my philosophy that what is being done can always be done better. That’s not to say that a person needs to be fired. There’s a process set to hire and fire, and I’ll 100 percent follow that procedure.”

“I’ve made no promises throughout the campaign, other than to do the best job I can do,” Lewis said. “That’s my commitment to this county. I’ve made no promises to anyone. There’s no quid pro quo.”

In other business, the commission:

• approved a change to the county’s subdivision regulations, which excludes properties with a 30-day or less lease, such as RV parks, from complying with subdivision infrastructure requirements.

• approved an amendment to the youth sports funding agreement with the cities of Opp and Florala, which makes each annual appropriation payable to the respective city instead of the city’s recreational board.