Commission names interim administrator after debate over rules

Published 10:24 pm Monday, March 12, 2018

District 5 commissioner Charlie Harris wants the public to know that the county commission “violated its own rules” during a vote to name an interim county administrator, but other commissioners disagreed.

The issue arose when current administrator Harry Sanders suggested that the county name McKenzie Wilson, county personnel and safety director, as the interim until the commission can hire a permanent replacement.

Harris argued that the commission could not vote on it at this meeting as they would have needed to have a first reading before holding a vote. Harris had placed the personnel item on the agenda at the previous meeting and argued that it was only concerning advertising for the position and that a new item was needed to appoint an interim administrator.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Chad Copeland, District 4 commissioner, said personnel items in other cases have been carried forward on the agenda after commissioners voted to advertise so that they could approve a hire whenever it comes up.

“That’s what we’ve done for the past 18 months I’ve been in office and the two years I’ve been coming and sitting in at meetings,” Copeland said.

“Y’all are breaking your own rules, making up your own rules and going against the agenda package,” Harris said. “What is wrong with you all?”

District 1 commissioner Homer Wright requested that the issue be carried over to the next meeting, which would come four days after Sanders officially retires, in order to avoid arguments. Copeland then cut back in to argue against delaying the vote.

“We’re going to have four days with no acting administrator because of one commissioner that doesn’t want it to happen and is trying to scare us away from having a vote?” Copeland asked. “Our attorney said we were fine under the handbook. If we want to push this over to another meeting for a reason other than appeasing a commissioner, I’m fine with that, but this is not a valid reason not to act on what Pike County needs. That’s why there’s six of us so one person doesn’t bully the rest.”

“I’m going to get this straight,” Harris responded. “I am the one that put the personnel on there to advertise for a county administrator; it wasn’t on the agenda to put an interim. We voted on the last agenda, the agenda says the first-time reading is rolled over until it gets second reading. If you all are going to sit here and violate our own rules, go ahead.

“I don’t appreciate you saying I’m trying to bully anybody; don’t ever give me that anymore. I’m just giving you what the rules say. If you want to violate the code of the county commission, go ahead.”

The commission ultimately did go ahead with the vote, which passed 3-2-1 to name Wilson to the interim role beginning on March 22 when Sanders officially leaves office. Homer Wright abstained from the vote while Harris and District 2 Commissioner Jimmy Barron voted against the move. Copeland, Sullivan and Johnson voted in favor.

Allen Jones, county attorney, clarified some of the rules the county set for itself to follow after the meeting. He said Harris made some valid points, although noting that the county did not do anything outside the law. He also added that even if the interim appointment was a first reading, the commission could have suspended the rules and voted on it anyway.

He said he would be providing the copy of the agenda procedure to each commissioner so that they can have a copy for themselves to review whenever necessary.

In other business the commission:

• Voted to allow the road department to advertise for a mechanic position and an assistant road and bridges supervisor.

• Voted to allow the NAACP to use the courthouse on April 20 for a two-part forum that would include 90 minutes for local officials to explain what they have done for residents and another 90 minutes for candidates in the upcoming primary races to discuss their plans if elected.

• Voted to recognize April as Child Abuse Awareness Month in Pike County.

• Voted to appoint Buck Williams to replace Dennis Riley on the e-911 board.

• Voted to switch inmate communications from the current contract to NCIC Communications, which a representative of the company said would triple the county’s revenue while making calls cheaper for inmates’ families.

• Heard from Peter Copeland, a resident near County Road 7717, about his belief that Lockheed Martin ought to have to buy land to expand their operation instead of asking the county to give up 2.7 miles of public road on CR7717.

The commission will meet again on Monday, March 26 upstairs at the Pike County Health Department. The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and will be followed by a business meeting at 6 p.m.

The meeting will include a vote on whether to transfer the road to Lockheed and could also include a vote of some kind on Sunday alcohol sales with a local act expected to authorize a commission vote prior to the meeting.