10/19/04 — Complaints aired about Duplin County employee salaries

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Complaints aired about Duplin County employee salaries

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 19, 2004 2:00 PM

KENANSVILLE -- People are complaining about what county employees are making.

Duplin Sheriff Blake Wallace marched his deputies into the meeting of the county commissioners Monday to complain about what the new administrative secretary is making in the economic development office.

Cynthia Potter started work Oct. 5 after the county commissioners voted 3-2 to hire her at a salary of $31,085 and a total benefits package of $35,056.

That sent some people who have been working years for the county and making less money into an uproar. That included the deputies.

"The deputies are here today not as a strong-arm tactic," he said. He said he has several deputies who have been working for the county many years who are not making $31,000.

One person has the same job title and grade as Ms. Potter, and she is making only $24,000, he said. She has also been working for the county 20 years.

"You wouldn't say so?" asked commissioner Reginald Wells when Wallace said the deputies weren't a strong-arm tactic. He had made the original motion to hire Ms. Potter at the $31,000 rate. He said he has since realized "we've opened Pandora's Box. ... I hope in the future we're not strong-armed into making decisions."

Ila Davis, director of Duplin Health Services, had spoken first, while the deputies lined up against the back wall watching the meeting. She told commissioners that members of her processing staff who have been working for the county from four to 10 years are making only $22,000.

It's causing a problem with morale, she said. Two in the processing staff are bilingual. Without them, she said she would have to hire another translator.

One of the supervisors, who has worked six years for the county, is making just over $24,000, she said. An accounting technician is making $23,000, and another supervisor, with 14 years' working for the county, is making only $30,000.

County Manager Fred Eldridge had not been at the meeting when the commissioners voted to hire Ms. Potter. He had recommended $26,000. Economic Development Director Woody Brinson had asked the board to pay her more because of her qualifications.

Albertson and Larry Howard voted to oppose the salary.

The board tabled the matter Monday until County Attorney Tim Smith could research the county's options. He promised the board he would have a recommendation at the next commissioner meeting.

Ms. Potter was the administrative secretary for the Extension Service for nearly 29 years before she retired in May.

Brinson had received 64 applications for the job.

Ms. Davis said recruitment is difficult in her department. She usually gets only one or two applications when she advertises.