BLOUNTVILLE — With relatively little discussion and no prior public discussion at all, the Sullivan County Commission voted Monday to yank the county’s “day worker” program from oversight by the county sheriff — and place it instead under Claude Smith, whose title seems to change a lot, at least as described on county commission resolutions.
Nothing was said of how much money is involved.
Nothing was said, in any detail, about exactly what is expected of the program — regardless of just who is in charge.
Commissioner Dwight King sponsored the resolution to make the change. It made its public debut at the meeting that began at 9 a.m. Monday. It carried a list of 12 commissioners who already had signed off as co-sponsors.
One of them, Commissioner Robert White, later told the Times-News he had a hand in drafting King’s resolution, over the weekend, and that support for the measure was drummed up Sunday with telephone calls between commissioners.
Another, Commissioner Baxter Hood, said he’d allowed his name to be among the co-sponsors “without too much thought.”
Commissioner Linda Brittenham also was a co-sponsor. At one point before the vote, Brittenham called for a three-month delay on any action. But when the roll was called, Brittenham voted “yes” for the change.
Commissioners seeking the change said they want the grass mowed and weeds pulled more frequently at the county properties serviced by the program.
They said some restrooms haven’t been cleaned often enough — and that “some ladies” have complained that toilet paper sometimes isn’t replaced as needed.
They said they’ve complained for months — and thought a resolution from more than two years ago was supposed to have helped things, but had in fact done nothing much.
Sheriff Wayne Anderson said he’s tried to address commissioners’ concerns — when they’ve been brought to him.
Anderson appeared blind-sided by King’s resolution and the commission’s hasty push to make the switch.
Anderson said King and other commissioners continue to be confused about what can and cannot be done with inmate labor — and the difference between jail trusties (which King’s resolution calls “trustees”), inmate labor and the use of convicted offenders sentenced by a judge to work off sentences through community work (rather than reporting to jail at night, they go to their own homes).
King said he is not confused.
Anderson said commissioners were taking the program from his charge as “retaliation” for his recently settled lawsuit seeking more funding.
Commissioners vowed and declared that thought had never entered their heads.
Anderson said commissioners were just trying to find work for Smith.
Commissioners said Smith used to oversee the program and it worked better when he did.
King’s resolution calls Smith “the director of maintenance.”
In the past Smith has been called “construction oversight manager” and “administrator of county buildings.”
Smith, at times, has drawn salary paid from multiple departmental budgets within the county.
Citing public records laws, the Times-News asked the county’s payroll office for Smith’s pay rate on Monday afternoon.
Payroll Manager Gayvern Moore said when the current fiscal year began, last July 1, Smith’s salary was budgeted at $51,600 — but as of Monday, Smith’s pay was at $45,658, total, per year.
Moore, interim budget director from April 2012 until last month, said she had no explanation for the discrepancy.
Moore confirmed that in the past Smith’s salary was drawn from multiple departmental budgets, but said it is now consolidated under one section of the budget: construction oversight.
Moore said that if Smith’s pay is to change due to the switch of the day worker program, she hadn’t been told yet.