The Pulaski County Quorum Court gave the go-ahead Tuesday night to consider amending the county's personnel policy to prevent employees from maintaining their salaries when they transfer to a lower-paying position.
The amendment presented to the Quorum Court's agenda committee on Tuesday is in response to the transfer of former Pulaski County Attorney Amanda Mitchell, who earned $98,000 annually as county attorney, to a senior appraiser/analyst position in County Assessor Janet Troutman Ward's office. That position typically pays between $52,000 and $55,000 annually.
Mitchell was not the first employee to maintain a higher salary after transferring to a lower-paying job but is one of the latest employees to do so, attracting the attention of some justices of the peace.
Justices of the peace voted 9-3, with one abstaining and two absent from the meeting, to place the policy amendment on the Quorum Court's March 22 agenda, where it will be heard for a final vote.
While several justices of the peace supported making the change as soon as possible to prevent such transfers from ever happening again, other justices of the peace thought the amendment posed Tuesday night was premature, citing Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde's personnel task force that will review the county's 23-year-old personnel policy.
"I simply don't think this is the right time to do this, personally," Justice of the Peace Tyler Denton, D-Little Rock, said. "I think this is a knee-jerk reaction."
Justice of the Peace Lillie McMullen, D-Little Rock, said the personnel task force could take several months to a year to complete its review of county policy, and noted that justices of the peace would have the next two weeks to review the small change to the policy being proposed Tuesday.
"We have two weeks to look at this," McMullen said. "We're not talking about anything other than maybe these three pages."
Pulaski County Attorney Adam Fogleman told justices of the peace that Hyde supported their consideration of the amendment before his task force formed "to get it out of the way."
He added that the task force can recommend changes to anything the Quorum Court approves this month.
Justice of the Peace Judy Green, D-Little Rock, abstained from the vote, citing the limited amount of time she said she was given to review the amendment, and Justices of the Peace the Rev. Robert Green Sr., D-McAlmont, and Phil Stowers, R-Maumelle, were absent from the vote. Stowers has expressed support for the amendment. Justices of the Peace Denton, Kathy Lewison, D-Little Rock, and Teresa Coney, D-Little Rock, opposed the amendment. Justices of the Peace Doug Reed, R-Roland, Julie Blackwood, D-Little Rock, McMullen, Donna Massey, D-Little Rock, Curtis Keith, D-Mabelvale, Aaron Robinson, R-Jacksonville, Luke McCoy, R-Sherwood, Paul Elliott, R-Maumelle, and Staci Medlock, D-North Little Rock, voted in favor of considering the amendment.
According to current personnel policy, an employee transferring from an "unclassified" position without a specified pay range to a "classified" one with a specified pay range can continue to earn the same pay he was making before the transfer.
The amendment proposed Tuesday night strikes that section of the policy and adds language that limits a person's salary to only 10 percent above the published salary range if the person is "demoted voluntarily, at the initiation of the employee, or involuntarily, at the discretion of the elected official or department head." In addition, after a demotion, a person's pay must be reduced by at least 2 percent from his previous salary.
Keith asked how the percentages were arrived at, to which Reed, who sponsored the amendment, said he was open to changing the 10 percent and 2 percent figures to different percentages.
The amendment discussed Tuesday night was submitted as an emergency ordinance and replaced a different amendment that addressed the same issue that was on the original agenda Tuesday night, meaning Tuesday night was the first time many justices of the peace had seen the amendment. The original amendment merely struck out the language that allowed an unclassified employee to continue earning the same pay in a classified position with a lower pay range.
"To me this is a very confusing policy, and then we get here tonight and find this emergency ordinance laying here that I haven't read before," Lewison said, adding that she would vote with Denton against considering any change just yet.
Justice of the Peace Robinson said he supported the amendment Tuesday night to at least keep the county "from enduring what happened several weeks ago" with Mitchell and noted again that the personnel task force could recommend a different policy.
"I think it's a good idea to at least change it to get us where we need to be," he said.
Metro on 03/09/2016
Print Headline: JPs move to bar county pay-grade transfers to lower-ranked jobs