Personnel committee advances three proposals
Three proposals and possibly two more will be brought to Barnwell County Council in February following a personnel committee meeting.
The proposals discussed during the Jan. 26 personnel committee meeting involve employee merit raises, employee vacation leave rollovers and an evaluation of the county attorney who is not an employee.
A second meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 31 to discuss employee bonds and elected officials’ salary. These two items for discussion were added at the last minute to the Jan. 26 agenda but were postponed since they were not advertised 24 hours in advance as required by the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.
Members of the personnel committee include County Councilmen Jerry Creech and Don Harper, Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. and County Business Manager Debbie Fickling.
Fickling asked for a change in procedure for raises. She said since 2004 employees have been getting some cost of living increases but no merit pay raises. “A person could have been working here for ten years and a new person could come in and get paid the same.”
She suggested that of the budgeted amount for pay increases, half should be allocated to cost of living and the other half for merit raises.
“Otherwise, there is no incentive for employees to step up,” she said.
The department heads would be allowed to adjust which employees are given raises and by how much of a percentage. “One person might get a 5 percent increase while another might be given 1 percent,” she said.
“We are trying to look out for the employees who step up and are doing a great job,” she said.
Both county councilmen expressed their full support of the proposal.
“It gives guys an incentive,” said Creech. He noted that he wants the procedures clean-cut and following the proper chain of command. “I don’t want the good-ole-boy system involved. I want this done fairly.”
“It throws some responsibility back on the supervisors,” said Harper.
Administrator Williams said that as long as the merit raises were based on performance evaluations, then it should be so.
The vote to submit the proposal to county council was unanimous.
Moving to the topic of vacation leave, Fickling said Sheriff Ed Carroll had brought his concerns forward regarding vacation days. She said his staff often loses vacation days each year.
She suggested that if an employee has more than half of their vacation days unused, then those days would roll over to sick leave which could then be credited towards retirement.
“The most a person can roll over into retirement is 90 days,” said Williams.
Fickling said the change would benefit the employees while costing the county nothing extra. She said the Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center employees would most likely benefit.
Employees currently accrue a half day a month. The proposal would mean that any time over 50 percent (three days) could be rolled over.
Creech said he thought the plan would “boost morale” and “be a good thing.”
Harper said the plan is good because “it is not showing any favoritism.”
The vote to send the proposal to full council was unanimous.
Councilman Creech brought up a discussion of a means of evaluating the county attorney.
Creech noted County Attorney J.D. Mosteller is under contract with the county for his professional services and is not an employee, but there needed to be a means of letting him know “if the council has any objections or praises.”
He said the discussion “is in no way an indication that we are trying to get rid of our county attorney.”
He said he has “seen a void” while on council of a means to evaluate the attorney’s performance for the county.
While discussion included the creation of an evaluation form, the committee agreed they need to review the current contract with Mosteller.
Williams said the attorney bills the county for his time based on an hourly rate and broken down into 5-minute increments.
Creech said an evaluation could be done routinely in off-election years. “It wouldn’t be right for a new councilman to come on board and be expected to give an evaluation. They would need at least a year for that.”
Harper moved to have the committee review the current contract with Mosteller and create an “off-election year” evaluation form to present to council.
His motion was approved unanimously.