Moultrie Observer

Local News

January 13, 2011

Administrator pay raise sparks some controversy

MOULTRIE — A contract extension discussion for the Colquitt County administrator has sparked criticism from one county commissioner over a 10 percent raise and the way the issue was handled.

Commissioners said Thursday that the contract extension was discussed during a Wednesday afternoon meeting.

That meeting was closed to the public. Georgia law allows city and county governments to close meetings to discuss personnel, certain legal issues and acquisition of property.

The Wednesday meeting was closed for the purpose of discussing personnel. When the meeting was reopened to the public, the commission said that no action was taken during the meeting.

Commissioner Luke Strong said that it was agreed by a consensus decision to alter County Administrator Bryan Shuler’s salary, although no formal vote was taken. The contract approved included a $10,000 salary increase, from $100,000 to $110,000.

Shuler was hired in February 2009 at a salary of $100,000, with commissioners agreeing to review his performance six months after that time.

Strong said he did not agree to the contract and raise.

“I told them to let the minutes reflect I opposed the $10,000,” he said. “It was approved in the closed session with me opposing it. They said no action was taken. To me, that’s an action.

“I have constituents who are having trouble paying utilities, rent,” he said. “Our employees have not had a raise in two years. I feel like that was a way of putting it in his contract without letting the general public know it was officially in his contract.”

County Attorney Lester Castellow said that Shuler’s salary was set in last year’s budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

That budget shows Shuler’s salary at $110,000.

When The Observer requested Shuler’s salary amount in September for a story on public-employees’ salaries the county gave a figure of $110,000.

Castellow, who was in the Wednesday meeting, said no action was taken that day and that no separate vote was needed to increase Shuler’s salary other than its inclusion in the budget.

“His salary was stated in the budget,” Castellow said. “I don’t’ see them having to take another vote when they’ve already done it in the budget. First of all, they didn’t vote (Wednesday). Second of all, they didn’t have to.”

Strong said that he felt another vote should have been held, and that he did not realize at the time he voted to approve the budget that Shuler’s salary increase was included.

“If I’m wrong I stand corrected,” he said. “We put money in the budget for vehicles and we still have to vote before they are allowed to purchase those vehicles. When (Roads and Bridges Superintendent) Charles Weathers finds a motor grader, he comes back to us and we have to approve the purchase even though it’s in the budget.”

Commissioners Windred Giddens and Johnny Hardin said Thursday that it was their understanding at the time of the adoption of the budget that it authorized the raise for Shuler.

“It was my understanding that was settled,” Giddens said.

The commission agreed to review Shuler’s contract in six months, and actually only did so after more than a year after his hiring, Giddens said.

“We had to be men of our word,” he said. “He’s done a fantastic job.”

Hardin said that Shuler brought up the raise and its inclusion in the budget when commissioners were discussing the spending plan.

“He brought it up, he showed it to us,” Hardin said. “It was understood that way. I don’t have a problem with giving him a raise.”

There also was no intent to hide the pay increase from the public, Hardin said.

“I don’t think there was,” he said. “If you take a vote on it you ought to be up front about it. This was open for the public to see.”


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