10/05/11 — Smith gets six-year contract

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Smith gets six-year contract

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 5, 2011 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners, following a 30-minute closed session to discuss employee performance, voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve a six-year contract extension for County Manager Lee Smith.

It was the second time in as many months commissioners have met behind closed doors to discuss the contract.

The six-year contract, which is effective Jan. 1, is automatically renewable on an annual basis. However, either the county or Smith can terminate the renewal by giving notice 90 days prior to the next termination date (Dec. 31 of each year).

"This is basically a year-to-year contract," Smith said. "It is a one-year severance (should he be fired) and if I end it, basically all I am getting is what any employee is given like any vacation, time due to me. It is the same contract, nothing changed but the length of it."

The one-year severance of salary and benefits could be paid in one lump sum or over a 12-month period.

Commissioner Bud Gray made the motion to approve the new contract.

However, before a vote could be taken Commissioner Steve Keen offered up an amendment to limit the contract extension to one year.

"All seven county commissioners come in (start filing for office) February of 2012, the election is in November and the contract is up in December," he said. "To be fair to potential new board members to have the county manager on the same page as the commissioners, to make it fair and practical, I ask that the amendment just be approved for one year in order for the commissioners and county manager to align themselves."

"Steve has a point. There is no question about that," Commissioner Andy Anderson said. "We need to respect any future incoming commissioners.

"At the same time we are dealing with things off in the distant future. We are constantly doing things way out, long range and we have got to have some continuity in keeping those things going."

Anderson said he thought a one-year extension would be detrimental to the long-range planning.

"I agree with Mr. Anderson and I think Mr. Smith has done a good job for us and kept our county financially sound," Commissioner Sandra McCullen said. "I think that we should respect that. I think that we want somebody in that position who can help us with that, and in these tight budget times, we are really looking to him to lead the way. I appreciate what he has done."

Keen said his comments did not reflect on Smith's achievements as county manager, just what would happen if the makeup of the commission were to change.

The amended motion failed 1-6, with only Keen voting for it.

The board then voted 6-1 to approve the contract. Keen voted no.

Smith is paid an annual salary of $182,100. He also receives an additional $12,000 annually in travel allowance that is built into salary. The travel allowance is taxable so the $1,000 per month ends up around $600 after taxes, he said.

"I get my medical and dental insurance," Smith said. "(The county) pays for my insurance like all county employees. The difference is the family policy that I have, they pay for that."

Smith said rumors had been circulating that he had a different insurance than county employees. That is not the case, he said.

"I have the same insurance as county employees have," he said. "I don't have anything different there."

The contract also calls for the county to provide annual salary increases by at least the Consumer Price Index plus 5 percent. The county can increase the salary above that baseline.

The county provides at least a 5 percent annual 401(k) contribution, too.

The six-year contract extension originated with the board, said Smith, who became manager in December 2001.

The length of contracts for county managers vary from county to county, he said. Smith said he has seen some shorter and some longer than the one approved Tuesday.