JACKSON — Whether or not to advertise for the new Assistant County Manager position sparked friction between Northampton County commissioners and County Attorney Charles Vaughan.
In a special called meeting Wednesday, commissioners decided to create a new position, approved the job description, salary and determined the effective date of filling the position, but when it came to deciding whether or not to advertise, tempers flared.
Commissioner Chair Robert Carter gave three papers to commissioners and the media informing everyone Kimberly Turner, Clerk to the Board, was interested in the Assistant County Manager’s position and was willing to remain at her current position with no pay increase until she was sufficiently trained for the new position.
“(I) recommend we request Mr. (County Manager Wayne) Jenkins to work closely with Ms. Turner and to allow her to shadow him during the next five months,” the papers read. “This will include her participating with him in meetings, learning county operations and other activities he does not typically involve her.”
The paper continued to outline advertising the position should be done internally, posting the announcement to all county departments, “which would allow any county employee to apply for the position if they considered themselves qualified and interested in the position.”
The papers go on to say all applicants would be considered “and alleviate the possibility of some interested employee alleging that they were not given the opportunity to apply for the position. This option possibly could be a lesser liability for the county.”
The papers describe a second option to take Turner’s position “and reclassify it to the Assistant County Manager, promote her and grant her a salary increase ... There is no vacancy in this situation and therefore not necessary to advertise the position.”
County Attorney Charles Vaughan reminded Carter and the board numerous times the county has personnel ordinances they must follow, which require the job is advertised.
Carter produced a letter from the UNC School of Government saying the board could proceed as he suggested as long as it did not go against Northampton County ordinances.
“I’m telling you sir, we have an ordinance,” Vaughan told Carter. “If you want to amend it, we can amend it.”
Carter asked County Manager Wayne Jenkins to relate to the board his experience concerning the creation of the position of Public Works Director in 1992.
Jenkins told commissioners the county combined responsibilities to create the Public Works Director position. Later, another county employee complained and the matter was brought before the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. They decided the county did nothing wrong, but the defense cost the county.
Carter said, “The board has the authority to reorganize.”
Commissioners Joseph Barrett and Fannie Greene questioned the wisdom of not advertising and the precedent it was setting for other county workers.
“I think it sets a poor precedent if you don’t follow your own policy and the advice of your attorney,” Barrett said.
Commissioner Vice Chair Virginia Spruill sided with Carter, saying personnel matters were decided by resolution, and the board had the right to not advertise if that is what it wanted.
Contention continued between Carter and Vaughan when Vaughan tried to give Carter his legal opinion.
“I don’t want to hear anything else from you,” Carter said, then told Vaughan he was out of order.
“You are out of order,” Vaughan fired back. Soon after Spruill and Vaughan had words.
Greene said again she didn’t understand why there was such a problem with advertising the position.
“We don’t want a possible lawsuit even if we’re right,” she said.
Eventually, commissioners agreed by split decision to advertise the position internally with Carter, Greene and Chester Deloatch voting for and Barrett and Spruill against.
Carter stated after the meeting no decision has been made on who will fill the Assistant County Manager’s position.