LUMBERTON — The procedure used by the county Board of Commissioners on Monday to create a new position was not illegal, but it was not done in the usual manner, according to a professor with the University of North Carolina’s School of Government in Chapel Hill.
“It certainly was not the standard,” Robert Joyce, a professor of law and government, told The Robesonian.
On Monday, Commissioner David Edge garnered enough votes to create the new position of “compliance, safety, loss prevention and risk management officer.” The commissioners also agreed to hire Shelton Hill, who already works for the county’s South East Area Transit System, to fill the position.
The new position, whose creation was opposed by Commissioners Noah Woods, Raymond Cummings and Roger Oxendine, is included in the county’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2012-13. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for June 18.
Joyce said that although the position can be created and filled without it being advertised, he questioned the authority of the commissioners to hire a specific individual.
“Usually the county manager does the hiring and firing of county employees,” Joyce said. “That responsibility is given to the manager by state statute.”
Joyce went on to say that the commissioners should not step in and decide who should be hired for the position without the “manager being on board.”
“I think the commissioners need to coordinate (this kind of action) with the manager,” he said.
Ricky Harris, the interim county manager, sidestepped the fray.
“I can’t comment on it,” he said.
County Attorney Hal Kinlaw on Monday reminded the board that the county has not put together a job description for the new position.
“Usually a position is created based on an existing job description, not the other way around,” Kinlaw said.
Edge, a businessman who campaigned as a fiscal conservative, said that he believes Hill is the perfect person to handle the responsibilities of the new position and save the county money. Part of Hill’s responsibilities, the commissioner said, is to get county employees collecting workman’s compensation back to work. Edge said Monday night that he would pay Hill’s salary if Hill did not save the county money at least $500,000 a year.
Edge said that he brought the issue to a vote at Monday’s regular meeting because attempts to go through the county’s Personnel Committee — which is the usual policy — were unsuccessful.
“This is the only way anything could get done,” Edge said “It couldn’t get through the Personnel Committee, but I knew I had the votes of five commissioners to get this done.” Edge was joined by Commissioners Tom Taylor, Lance Herndon, Jerry Stephens and Hubert Sealey in creating the position.
Cummings said that his negative vote was due to the issue not being addressed by the Personnel Committee, of which he is a member.
“I thought it would be better if it went to the Personnel Committee to be worked out,” he said. “We have a process there for creating positions.”
Noah Woods, the board’s chairman, agrees with Cummings.
“I’m not saying that the position isn’t needed,” Woods said. “But I don’t like to change the process. This was not discussed before it came up for a vote.”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.