JONESBORO It’s a rare occasion when the Clayton County Board of Commissioners lets a request die on the floor without a vote, but that’s what happened to a pay increase request from Sheriff Victor Hill Tuesday.
Hill asked commissioners to reclassify the pay grade for his legal advisor, Oliver Hunter, so the attorney’s salary could increase from $64,524 to $86,937.
That’s a pay raise of $22,413.
“The position is currently filled but reclassification is necessary for retention purposes,” Hill wrote in a legislative request to commissioners.
But the request went nowhere when it was presented to commissioners by Human Resources Director Renee Bright. It died because no commissioner would make a motion to approve or reject it. Parliamentary procedure requires a motion be made or seconded before a vote can be taken.
The matter dies without either.
Chairman Jeff Turner said there have been occasions where items have died for lack of a motion since he took office in January, but he acknowledged it’s not a common occurrence.
“It’s only happened maybe once or twice since I took office,” Turner said.
During a pre-meeting session, commissioners raised questions about the request and Bright was forced to admit the requested salary was unusual for the position.
The requested salary would put the position at what the county refers to as “Grade 37” for human resources and accounting purposes.
“A grade 37 would be high for a legal advisor that works for just one department,” Bright said.
The request shocked observers in the pre-meeting session and caused many of them to begin whispering amongst themselves about the size of the pay increase. Some of them made seemingly sarcastic remarks to their neighbors about the dollar amount.
“It’s only $22,000,” one observer whispered to the person seated next to him.
But documents provided to commissioners show Hill tried to argue he needed the raise because he couldn’t offer Hunter a more competitive salary when he accepted the job.
“Current policy requires all new employees to start at the lowest entry-level salary,” said Hill in his legislative request. “It is extremely difficult to attract candidates that possess experience to accept employment because the salary is not competitive. Additionally, the work of the office has moved beyond the point that an individual without a law degree and bar license can handle the work.”
But one issue that hampered Hill’s argument is that Hunter had already accepted the job despite its salary.
Turner said the commission’s inaction was not a sign of disrespect toward Hill. He said commissioners felt uneasy that Hill said the pay wasn’t enough to retain the attorney shortly after the lawyer began working for the sheriff.
“He should have come to us before he hired this guy and asked us to raise the salary at that time,” Turner said.