Committee approves inclement weather policy for Finance Department

Published 11:00 am Thursday, February 4, 2016

Carter County Commission Logoi
When inclement weather strikes, Carter County’s elected officials have the right to close their offices and send their staff home for safety and now, so too does the county’s finance director.
During a meeting of the county’s Financial Management Committee on Wednesday morning, County Finance Director Christa Byrd asked the committee to provide direction and adopt an inclement weather policy for her office.
Under state law, elected officials such as the County Court Clerk, Assessor of Property or the Circuit Court Clerk have the right to determine when their office will be open and also to determine when to close their office and send staff home in the event of emergencies like severe weather. Because the Finance Director is not an elected official but is appointed by the County Commission, Byrd said she does not have that same authority under state law.
“Right now we have no policy to go by,” Byrd said. “We have been going by if the Mayor closes the courthouse then we close.”
The issue of offices closing during inclement weather came up during the recent snow storm that struck the county when some county offices closed early in order to allow employees to leave.
“When I have an employee that comes to me and says ‘Why can’t I leave Christa, everyone else is leaving?’ I don’t have a policy I can point to,” Byrd said. “I can’t say I’m following the rules if I don’t have a rule to follow.”
Byrd told the committee she would be fine with continuing to operate on standard that her office would close when the Mayor closes the courthouse or with the committee granting her the authority to make the call as to whether or not to close in inclement weather. “Either way is fine with me, as long as I have a policy I can refer to,” she said.
Several members of the committee voiced their opinion that the decision to close an office should be left up to the elected official or department head because they best know their staff and where they live.
“Normally, we have instructed the employees, through the office holder, that if you get up in the morning where you live and you feel it is a risk or too dangerous then stay home,” Humphrey said.
Committee Chairman Ray Lyons said he felt an official policy should be adopted in order to protect the county.
“I don’t think we should wing it, I think it is a liability for us to wing it,” he said, adding the county could face potential liability issues if an employee is injured due to driving in dangerous weather.
Commissioner Danny Ward made a motion to grant the Finance Director the authority to determine office closings in the event of inclement weather. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Bobbie Gouge-Dietz and passed unanimously on a vote.

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