PCC trades barbs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Verbal sparring escalated into overt hostility at Monday night's Pike County Commission meeting. Conflict over pay raises for county employees has been brewing since the county passed its budget in October, but when commission chair Karen Berry proposed an amendment to the minutes of the Dec. 9 meeting, Commissioner Charlie Harris erupted.

Harris slammed Berry for attempting to change the wording of the minutes of the previous meeting, saying that she was attempting to legitimate the pay raises, which passed at that meeting, through "dirty politics."

The amendment, which Berry said "clarified" the minutes, passed 4-2 with Harris and Commissioner Willie Thomas dissenting.

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The dispute over the pay raises stems from a decision made by the county to pass a version of the budget that did not include the raises. Harris had been one of the biggest opponents of the raises, which he said the county could not afford. However, at the Dec. 9 meeting, with Harris and Thomas both absent, the raises passed.

Harris said the employees, who are employed in the commission office, were being given promotions from Level 11 to Level 12 and the motion to give the employees the raise had been successfully killed at a previous meeting.

"We voted on this issue and it was a 3-3 tie. That means that it does not pass," he said. "Now, they are playing dirty politics to amend the minutes and act like this was on the agenda and it wasn't."

Harris said the other commissioners used the absence of he and Thomas to pass the raises which are not included in the county's budget.

"That's why this county is in debt," he said. "Raises should be accounted for in the budget and not just given out. We adopted a budget plan that did not have raises in it and now they've passed them anyway."

Harris predicted litigation over the raises.

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson @troymessenger.com.