By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON - During the public portion of Wednesday’s Ming County Commission meeting, the commissioners addressed questions raised by the Daily News regarding the salaries of county employees and hiring practices for county jobs.
Numerous county residents have expressed their concerns about the pay rates, the lack of advertisement for available jobs and who selects these employees or recommends their pay rate.
The Daily News recently published a list of the hourly pay rates for all county employees with amounts that ranged from $8 to $24 an hour, with the majority making between $10 and $20.
When asked about starting pay, Commission President Greg “Hootie” Smith said that when a department head has an opening, they are responsible for selecting the person they want to fill the vacancy and also ask for the pay rate they feel is appropriate. If the money is in the department’s budget, that becomes the starting wage.
The question was posed as to who creates a job description for a position, along with defining the educational criteria that must be met, among other qualifications. Once again, Smith said that was the sole responsibility of the department head, and that the only obligation of the commission is to approve the hire.
Pay raises are also given at the discretion of the department heads, according to the commission. The commissioner said that each year, X number of dollars are placed in each department budget, and if raises are granted, they come out of that amount. It is up to the elected official to decide how to distribute the amount of money his/her department receives for payroll.
Smith was asked about the policies for advertising vacancies, or the lack thereof, why the available jobs are not posted where the general public would be able to view them, and why the commission doesn’t utilize the Workforce For West Virginia office, located in Logan County. Smith explained that a few jobs are posted and some are not, adding that there is no requirement that states that all job openings be advertised.
While addressing the subject of creating new jobs, the recent hiring of an employee for the position of recreational supervisor was used as an example. Ricky Wilkerson was hired last month at the rate of $10 an hour (allowed up to 30 hours a week), to format a schedule for sports teams interested in using the former Williamson High School gymnasium, as well as planning and organizing AAU tournaments.
Smith was asked if Wilkerson approached the commission about the position or if he approached the new hire. Smith said he offered Wilkerson the position because of his vast amount of experience with youth sports leagues. No applications were accepted and Smith did not say if others were considered for the job.
Last, the matter of how the annual legal advertisements are now listed in the local newspapers was addressed. In past years, these financial reports listed each and every employee of the county along with their annual salary, as well as every vendor who was paid for products or services. It was very precise in nature. In the last two to three years, only the departments are listed, with a cumulative total for each one that does not offer specifics but is instead very generic.
Smith said Finance Supervisor Tina Lockard would have to address that matter, and explained that she was currently off work due to an illness. Smith did say, however, that he is positive the county commission is in compliance with what the state auditor requires.
“I think it’s very interesting that you have been covering our commission meetings for umpteen years and suddenly you are asking these questions about salaries and such,” Smith said. “And this conveniently happens right before an election … I sense political overtones here.”
Smith was reminded that although the county payroll is a matter of public record, the Daily News was forced to file a Freedom of Information Act request before it was turned over. County Attorney Glen Rutledge explained that the reason for that request was to appease employees who they believed would be upset that their salaries were made public.
The next meeting of the commission is scheduled for May 20, at 4:30 p.m.