BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey said last month that he would do his best to name a permanent budget director for the county soon, probably during the first part of the year.
The position has been filled on an interim basis for eight months or so, since the retirement last spring of Larry Bailey.
The county’s annual budget development process will begin soon, and it looks likely to be lengthy and possibly contentious, based on comments from various commissioners during committee meetings in December.
Godsey was asked about the permanent budget director situation during last month’s meeting of the full Sullivan County Commission.
Godsey said he had interviewed a couple of people regarding the job, but has had trouble finding viable candidates who are interested.
Part of the challenge, Godsey said, is that potential candidates who are certified public accountants (CPAs) who already have local government experience just don’t have interest in taking such a position.
“No one seems to have the local government experience,” Godsey said.
Another challenge: the “tremendous amount of politics involved” that comes with being budget director, Godsey said.
As for as how the county’s accounts and budgets office has performed since Bailey’s retirement, Godsey again lauded the entire staff and said he would have no qualms continuing with the team approach to getting the job done — “but the state is encouraging that we go ahead and appoint someone permanently, and we will have to do that soon.”
Gayvern Moore was appointed interim accounts and budgets director by Godsey after Bailey retired. As required by law, that appointment was confirmed by the Sullivan County Commission.
Some commissioners have since questioned, repeatedly, when a full-time appointment would be made.
In the past, Godsey has said he was holding off on making such an appointment, opting to instead to continue with Moore as “interim” director — in part to save money.
In an e-mail in October, a public record obtained by the Times-News, County Attorney Dan Street warned Godsey that Moore’s “interim” status “would suffice as a temporary appointment; however, the position needs to be officially filled within a reasonable amount of time.”
“I am not saying you have to hire a new person to fill this position,” Street wrote in the e-mail. “However, I am saying that Sullivan County must, as required by state law, have a person officially appointed as the director of accounts and budgets. The County Fiscal Procedure Law of 1957 and the County Budgeting Law of 1957 both set forth the requirement of such a position and the responsibilities of such position. The responsibilities of such position are numerous, specific, and quite important; and only one person correctly appointed as the director of accounts and budgets is ultimately responsible and accountable for the performance of these duties.”
Godsey responded back then that he has discussed the matter with the state’s comptroller’s office “and they have indicated to me that they are OK with what we are doing for the present time.”
Bailey departed just as what turned out to be a long and sometimes contentious budget development process began. After that process finally concluded, several commissioners credited teamwork within the accounting office and lauded Moore, Allan Mahaffey and Bertie Hobbs for sharing the workload to get the job done.
Godsey’s response to Street noted that team approach as well.
Street later told the Times-News that delegation of duties is fine, but ultimately Moore is the responsible individual when it comes to the requirements of the job of director of accounts and budgets.
“It’s not just a formality,” Street said in October. “We have to have somebody in that position. That person has responsibilities. There is no happy medium. It’s black and white. We have to have a director of accounts and budgets. That’s required. I’m not saying he has to hire a new person. But someone has to have that title. ‘Interim’ implies it needs finalization. It fills the void. But there’s the perception something else is forthcoming.”