12/05/12 — Board calls emergency meeting to undo first vote

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Board calls emergency meeting to undo first vote

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 5, 2012 1:46 PM

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Wayne County EMS employee Angie Barns, right, speaks with county Commissioner Ray Mayo following this morning's emergency meeting to discuss the county payroll. Most of the nearly two dozen EMS workers in attendance at the meeting walked out following commissioners' vote on overtime pay. In the background are Commissioners Steve Keen and Bill Pate.

Most of the 20 or so Wayne County emergency workers in attendance walked out on county commissioners this morning in protest of a board vote dealing with how the workers are paid for their overtime hours.

They walked out as Commissioner Ray Mayo was asking for patience and cooperation in working out payroll problems that have been ongoing since July. In some cases, some workers were overpaid, while others were underpaid.

Mayo reminded them that his Tuesday motion to go back to the old system effective today had been "open ended."

However, Commissioner John Bell cautioned against the move, arguing that the commissioners lacked the necessary knowledge and experience to tackle the issue.

As the door shut behind the workers, Commissioner Wayne Aycock called the action "disrespectful," and told County Manager Lee Smith to ensure that a sheriff's deputy is present at all board meetings for security.

This morning's emergency session was called to undo one of the first acts of the new Republican-controlled board, which apparently violated federal Fair Labor laws.

The action came less than 24 hours after the board voted 5-1 to reverse a two-month-old decision by the previous board detailing how employees in the county's Office of Emergency Services are paid.

In an effort to address continuing problems with the county's new payroll system, commissioners in October agreed that beginning Dec. 1 those employees' overtime pay would be based on time and a half instead of the complicated fluctuating workweek that had been used.

The action also included not making any changes to the employees' base pay.

There was a problem with the October decision as well, a problem compounded by the Tuesday vote.

Smith said that during a staff meeting following Tuesday's meeting it had been discovered that a pay period could not legally be split into two different methods of pay.

On Tuesday, the commissioners spent an hour and a half in a work session grilling and at times chastising County Manager Lee Smith and Human Resources Director Sue Guy over the payroll issues.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery, who had the harshest comments, this morning wanted assurance the action approved Tuesday would have been a violation of the law and not caused by an accounting issue.

Daughtery said he would not be pleased to find out later that it was an accounting error on the county's part, even though County Attorney Borden Parker told him that implementing the action would violate Fair labor laws.

An hour into today's morning meeting, Parker announced that commissioners needed to meet in private session to discuss confidential matters.

The board met behind closed doors for nearing 40 minutes before returning to open session.

It was then that Mayo made his motion to pay the employees time and a half for the most recent pay period. His motion also included changing the effective date of reverting to the old system to Dec. 9.

The motion was approved 6-0. Commissioner J.D. Evans did not attend the meeting.

After the meeting, Parker said that the closed session was called for attorney-client privilege as allowed under the state's Open Meetings Law.

Parker said he could not comment on what was discussed or whether it was related to this morning's discussions.