04/09/14 — Board eyes change

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Board eyes change

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 9, 2014 1:46 PM

Wayne County's new county manager, who could be in office by mid-August, can expect to earn between $46,408 and $66,408 less than what former manager Lee Smith was being paid when he resigned in February.

The county manager's salary was one of the issues discussed by the county Board of Commissioners during a retreat Tuesday at the Walnut Creek Country Club.

Also, unlike Smith's five-year contact with its automatic salary increases, the new contract would be for a shorter term, possibly two years, with salary increases tied to performance reviews.

As of July 1, 2013, the start of the county's 2013-14 fiscal year Smith's annual salary was $221,408.95. He also received $12,000 annually for travel.

Tuesday Interim County Manager George Wood recommended to Wayne County commissioners that they consider a salary range of between $150,000 and $175,000.

"What I have really given you are the rudiments of a contract that (County Attorney) Borden (Parker) would prepare for you," Wood said. "This basically comes from things in my contract.

"What I have given you here are the negotiating points. They (candidates) may come up with something that I am not familiar with. I have given you stuff that I would typically ask for, and typically that I know what most managers ask for."

The county manager serves at the pleasure of the board, Wood said.

He recommended that the contract include a clause concerning severance pay of six to 12 months if fired, unless for a felony.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery said he wanted the contract more restrictive than just including a felony as being a reason to fire the manager.

"You can fire a manager without cause," Wood said. "This gets tied to whether you pay severance or not. So obviously you want something in there that says if he gets convicted of a felony you don't have to pay the severance."

Daughtery said he still wanted that terminology broadened somewhat to include things other than a felony.

For example, it could include moral turpitude, he said.

Wood said other causes could be included.

"Again, nothing precludes you from firing him," he said. "All this is are you going to pay severance? But you definitely could be stricter."

But it would have to be something that had to be proved, not just suspected, Commissioner Ed Cromartie said.

That is correct, Wood said.

Wood suggested that the position be advertised beginning April 18 with the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, the International City and County Managers Association, and the associations of county commissioners in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

Since the cost of advertising is tied to the length of the ad, Wood said that the ad would refer people to the county site for most of the detailed information such as background on the county, the budget, audit and similar information.

"Most managers want to look at those documents and study them pretty good," Wood said. "I have never taken a job where I didn't read your audit and your budget because you want to know the financial condition of that place before you get there."

The deadline for submitting a cover letter, resume, salary history and professional references would be May 20, with June 15 as the deadline for selecting the top 5 to 10 candidates.

Wood said he considers having a candidate fill out an application a waste of time.

Everything that commissioners would want to know, and more, would be on the resume, he said.

Commissioner Bill Pate, who is retired from the Employment Security Commission, said he, too, did not think an application would be necessary.

Commissioners would hold special meetings in late June to interview the candidates in closed session, Wood said.

The finalist would be selected in early July and would undergo an extensive background check and possibly a psychological profile as well, he said.

While commissioners can interview the candidates in closed session, they would have to make the hiring decision in open session, he said.

Following the schedule put forth by Wood, the new manager would take office by mid-August.

Commissioner Steve Keen asked Wood if any "headhunter" firm, or the consulting firm that Wood is a partner in, would have all of the necessary materials and questions ready should the commissioners say, "bring us 10 (candidates) or bring us 5."

"Then when we sit in that room, in closed session, does the firm, would you sort of facilitate those questions and answers to keep everybody on course?" he said.

Wood said they would prepare the questions.

"But I don't think we should insert ourselves into the interview process," Wood said. "We can be in the room, if you want, and we can be a reference source. But I really think at that point, you should be handling the interview."

Wood said that one advantage of having him or his business partner in the room is that they could advise commissioners afterward on how well candidates responded to certain questions.

Also, the questions would have been prepared in conjunction with commissioners, he said.

Daughtery asked how much it could cost to use a search firm. Wood said it would cost about $20,000.

However, Wood said since he already is in place that his firm could do it for $5,000. Wood said his firm could also help negotiate the contract.

Chairman Wayne Aycock reminded the board that "this is strictly discussion" and that no decisions were being made even though it was a properly called public meeting.