Commission forgives Planning Director bonus, sends committee policy back to Rules and Bylaws

Published 9:28 am Friday, January 24, 2020

Before the full commission meeting could end Tuesday night, commissioners held an attorney-client privileged meeting with county attorney Josh Hardin. When the commission reconvened, Travis Hill made a motion to formally stop attempts to reclaim Planning Director Chris Schuettler’s $14,466.67 bonus he received mid-August of last year.

The commission previously had voted to begin efforts to reclaim a bonus that originated in a letter Planning Chairman Jerry Pearman sent to the county finance director, yet no further vote on the matter, to escalate the request or to abandon the effort, could reach a majority for months.

“It is our fiscal responsibility to spend taxpayer money wisely,” Hill said. “I feel like this is the best option for the county taxpayer.”

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Opponents of reclaiming the bonus have said it will cost the county more to reclaim the money than they would actually get back in the first place.

The commission voted 21-2 to approve Hill’s motion. Those voting against included Willie Campbell and Mark Blevins. Ray Lyons was absent for the vote.

Among the resolutions presented during the meeting Tuesday evening was a resolution addressing Ginger Holdren’s concern, which she brought up during the Rules and Bylaws committee meeting, about potentially forcing a rotating appointment schedule for commissioners.

Mike Hill, the only member of Rules and Bylaws who voted against the motion two weeks prior, said the motion would restrict commissioners’ freedom to choose where to serve.

“I do not like anything that removes choice,” Hill said. “I think the people elect us to come here and make educated decisions.”

He also echoed his complaints in Rules and Bylaws, that removing commissioners in the middle of a long-term project, like the recent health insurance project, could negatively impact the results they get.

“Good work does not know a timeline that fits an election cycle,” Hill said.

Isaiah Grindstaff suggested changing the wording to cap the timeframe to four consecutive years instead of two.

Holdren said she really appreciated the discussion that was taking place about the resolution.

“I am not sure this is the solution,” she said. “We are on the right path.”

She said she wanted to clarify there was no negative experience that prompted her to start the discussion. Rather, she wanted to give commissioners the same opportunity she had to learn first-hand how various elements of the county work by being part of these committees directly.

“I will support this even if it is not perfect, because it is a step in the right direction,” she said.

The resolution failed 8-15. Those in favor included Willie Campbell, Robert Acuff, Brad Johnson, Charles von Cannon, Austin Jaynes, Layla Ward, Ginger Holdren and Robin McKamey. Those voting against included Mark Blevins, Nancy Brown, Mike Hill, Patty Woodby, Mark Tester, Isaiah Grindstaff, Jerry Proffitt, Randall Jenkins, Gary Bailey, Travis Hill, Sonja Culler, Ray Lyons, Aaron Frazier, Kelly Collins and David Miller. Ross Garland was absent for the vote.

The resolution now goes back to Rules and Bylaws for further discussion.

The commission also approved the allocation of up to $32,000 for a new vehicle for the county coroner. Holdren was the only no vote, and Ray Lyons was absent for that vote, as well.

The commission also voted to approve Financial Management’s recommendation for a company to hire to perform a wage compensation study for county employees. Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of selecting Evergreen.

The commission voted to approve compensation for Budget Committee members for every budget hearing they sit on. The motion passed 15-2, with five abstaining for the vote.

Those in favor included Mark Blevins, Robert Acuff, Nancy Brown, Mike Hill, Brad Johnson, Mark Tester, Isaiah Grindstaff, Jerry Proffitt, Austin Jaynes, Layla Ward, Ginger Holdren, Randall Jenkins, Gary Bailey, Robin McKamey and David Miller. Those against included Charles von Cannon and Sonja Culler. Willie Campbell, Patty Woodby, Travis Hill, Aaron Frazier and Kelly Collins abstained. Ross Garland and Ray Lyons were absent for the vote.