Commissioners questioned Wilson County Circuit Court Clerk Linda Neal during Monday night’s meeting about raises given to employees in her office recently.
County Finance Director Aaron Maynard first brought the issue before the Budget Committee during a meeting last week. Commissioners asked Maynard to let the committee know if any employees in any of the five fee offices –trustee’s, county clerk, circuit court clerk, clerk and master and register of deeds – were given pay increases.
Commissioner Mike Justice, chairman of the Budget Committee, said Maynard reported Neal recently gave employees in her office $49,000 total in raises.
“To be fair, we were asking for all the county departments not to give out raises unless we approve them for all county employees,” Justice said.
The move came after the commission approved an across-the-board 2.5-percent raise for all county employees when it passed its budget, and the raises given by Neal were in addition to the blanket pay increases.
Both Maynard and Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said Neal did nothing wrong.
“All of those offices charge fees for various services,” Maynard said. “The salaries for these offices are not specifically listed in the budget. They have gotten together over time and established a range of salaries under a letter of agreement.
“[Neal] basically took everyone who wasn’t at the maximum and brought them to the maximum. [Some commissioners] don’t like it when the fee offices go off on their own even though they are well within their rights to do so.”
In the latest employee changes, Maynard said Neal promoted some people and gave raises to others. He said those files weren’t immediately available Tuesday night as he was away from his office.
“This time, she promoted some people,” Maynard said. “Then she had four or five people who she gave raises to. It was within the letter of agreement, but it was a raise.”
Hutto said he would have had to review and approve any changes in Neal’s letter of agreement, but since she didn’t raise any salaries above maximums included in the letter, that wasn’t necessary.
“We are at the will of the budget where they are under the letter of agreement,” Hutto said. “What the gentleman’s agreement is on is the caps. She hasn’t raised the caps.”
Hutto also said Neal also lowered her amount of overtime in her office to $30,000 last year from $65,000 the previous year.
Neal said she’s pretty sure she knows why commissioners questioned the raises Monday night.
“I’m not a good old boy, and the good old boys are after me,” Neal said. “What they are trying to do is micromanage each office. All I want to do is be left alone to do my job.”
Neal, who manages 31 employees in her elected capacity, couldn’t specifically recall the employees who received raises while she was away from her office Tuesday evening. She said several employees were also promoted.
“It depends on where they are in that letter of agreement,” Neal said. “I had three people who retired last year, three people with 30 years seniority. I moved three people up into those slots. That’s how people move up in my office. I could have done that last year, but I didn’t. I did it this year.”
Neal said she would be back in her office Thursday and would release the employment changes to The Democrat at that time.