08/19/09 — Duplin commissioners pay solid waste money

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Duplin commissioners pay solid waste money

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on August 19, 2009 1:46 PM

Duplin County Commissioners voted Monday to put $150,000 from the general fund into the solid waste fund, replacing money used to pay the salary of a solid waste enforcement officer who allegedly at the same time performed work for the Sheriff's Office.

County Manager Mike Aldridge and county attorney Wendy Sivori met with resident Jimmy Dixon, who brought the issue before the board at a previous meeting. Aldridge and Ms. Sivori came up with a figure of $47,478.06 -- a portion of the officer's salary for three years.

"We did not think that we could support going back eight years," Aldridge said.

They decided on three years as that is likely the "worst case scenario" or maximum amount of time that a court would order the county to look if the issue had gone to court, and if the county lost the case, Ms. Sivori said.

"I think this is a move in the right direction," Dixon said, and praised Aldridge and Ms. Sivori for being "very cooperative" in addressing the issue.

But going back eight years, not three, would be a "good faith effort" by the board, he said.

Commissioner Cary Turner suggested that the board replace the entire amount. The board voted 4 to 2 to replace $150,000, an amount that was introduced by Commissioner David Fussell.

However, Ms. Sivori wasn't sure having a code enforcement officer working on a road crew picking up roadside trash was even a violation of the law.

"I don't know that we're doing anything wrong," she said.

In the future, there should be greater internal oversight, Turner said. It would be better to catch issues with the county's staff than to have citizens bringing it to light, he argued.

"That worries me," Turner said.

Commissioners Frances Parks and Zettie Williams voted against the measure. Mrs. Williams asked previously to see documentation of the alleged event and said she had not seen any of the documentation she requested.

The only documentation of the events that the county is aware of are time sheets, officials said.

"David Fussell, you voted today on something you have not seen," Mrs. Williams commented after the vote.

In other business, the board voted to reverse an earlier decision to bar farmers from placing farm trash at the county solid waste sites. The county had placed signs at the sites barring farm waste and commissioners reported receiving phone calls from concerned citizens over the issue.

Aldridge said his office had brought the signs in to show them to the commissioners before the signs were posted, "and now it's wrong," he said. "So let's try to think through this thing and go through it before you launch out with a motion."

The board voted 4 to 2 to take down the signs and for 30 days allow farmers to use the sites while county staff members gather more information. The commissioners will revisit the issue at the meeting a month from now.

"If you satisfy a bunch of farmers, and I am one, you've done something," Aldridge said.

But someone is going to be angry no matter what the commissioners decide, he said.