Clayton County Commissioner Shana Rooks and Commission Chairman Jeff Turner listen to a presentation on proposed changes to the county government Tuesday. Commissioners created chief operating officer and chief financial officer positions after the presentation.
JONESBORO The Clayton County Board of Commissioners officially signed off on an administrative restructuring plan that tips the balance of power back to the commission’s chairman Tuesday.
The commission voted to create chief operating officer and chief financial officer positions which will be filled by employees who will report directly to Chairman Jeff Turner. They replace the county manager position which reported to the commission.
Commissioners eliminated the county manager position last week. As was the case with that vote, commissioners voted 3-2 to create the new positions. Commissioners Sonna Singleton and Gail Hambrick voted against the measures.
In essence, it completes a transition back to the “strong chairman” form of government which existed in Clayton County before the county manager position was created in 2011.
“We created these positions to try and streamline our operations, and to make sure we have the right people in place to be effective,” said Turner.
Turner is expected to quickly fill the new administrative positions. He has said his goal is to fill the positions within 30 days. But he said he wants to make sure he picks the right people.
“We’re going to be smart about naming people and make sure we get the right person for the right position,” said Turner.
The new structure is similar to a form of government recommended by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute in a study conducted for the county more than half a decade ago.
Commissioner Michael Edmondson previously said the recommendations from that study had never been acted upon until now.
The ordinances approved to create the chief operating officer and chief financial officer positions state their duties will be designated by the commission.
However, county officials have already said the new positions are intended to help Turner run the more than 20 departments that exist in Clayton County government.
The ordinances passed to create the positions also include provisions which state the new administrators “shall perform such other duties imposed upon” them “from time to time by action of the board.”
Neither position will be placed under the county’s Civil Service System, according to separate ordinances approved by commissioners.
Turner said the chief operating officer will be paid an annual salary of $130,000 and the chief financial officer will be paid $104,000.
By comparison, former County Manager Wade Starr was paid $150,000 per year. A separate chief of staff position had been kept in the county budget at a salary of $127,776, even though it has been vacant for two years.
Commissioners deleted the chief of staff position when it created the chief operating officer.
When the salaries of the county manager and chief of staff positions are added together and compared to the combined salaries of the chief operating officer and chief financial officer positions, the county saves $43,776 with the new positions.
Edmondson said he found two other costly vacant positions included in the county’s fiscal year 2013 budget. One is administrative assistant to the commission chairman position, which had been vacant for nine years and carried a $55,588 annual salary. The other is the director of planning and policy position, which has been vacant for nearly two years and included a $127,776 annual salary.
Both positions were last held by Starr.
Edmondson said the county could find additional savings if the administrative assistant and director of planning and policy positions were eliminated.
“Just looking at the budget, even after buying out the county manager’s contract for $75,000, we’d still have a net savings of over $150,000 with some of the positions we’re deleting or are budgeting for but are vacant,” Edmondson said.
Unlike the decision to eliminate the county manager position, commissioners had to do two readings of the ordinances to create the new positions before they could vote to create them.
The positions were created after some confusion over the vote. Edmondson had entered a motion to approve all ordinances and resolutions pending before the commission. But Hambrick wanted to have the ordinances pertaining to the chief operating officer and chief financial officer pulled out as a separate vote.
Commissioners then approved an amendment to Edmondson’s motion to focus only on those positions and the governing body unanimously voted to approve the positions. Singleton and Hambrick then said they thought they were actually voting to amend Edmondson’s motion and had their “yes” votes changed to “no” votes.