County to eye Smith's contract
By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 1, 2014 1:46 PM
Wayne County Commissioners will meet Friday afternoon in special session to consider contracts and "take action if needed."
The meeting notice, sent out just before 2 p.m. Tuesday, did not specify whose contract would be discussed. However, speculation is that it is the county's contract with County Manager Lee Smith.
The notice adds that a closed-door session will be held with County Attorney Borden Parker to "preserve attorney-client privilege."
The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. in the board room at the Wayne County Administration Building at 209 S. William St.
Commission Chairman Wayne Aycock, who has been acting county manager since Dec. 17 in Smith's absence, did not return a phone call asking if the meeting concerned Smith's contract and what Smith's status is with the county.
Aycock's appointment came after a two-hour closed session on Dec. 17. After returning to open session, Commissioner Steve Keen made a motion for Aycock to take over as acting county manager. There was no discussion, and the motion was unanimously approved.
Aycock said Smith had asked for some time off. Smith later said he was planning to have elective surgery done over the holidays and expected to be back at work by Jan. 6.
Aycock said he would not be in Smith's office handling the county's day-to-day operations and that if "any big decisions," came up that he would call a special session.
On Tuesday afternoon Smith said he had not received official notice of the meeting planned for Friday.
The Board of Commissioners entered into a six-year contract with Smith in 2012. At the time, Keen voted against the length of the contract's term, saying he preferred an annual agreement.
According to a 2013 salary survey by the UNC School of Government, Smith is paid $220,369 per year. He has an annual travel allowance of $12,000.
The contract is automatically renewed under the same terms and conditions unless Smith or the county provides notice of their intention not to renew 90 days in advance of the next termination's date -- Jan. 1.
However, the county can terminate Smith upon a 30-day notice. In that case, the county would be required to pay Smith his regular salary and benefits for a period of 30 days after the notice whether or not he had been suspended from duty.
At the end of the 30 days, the county would have to pay Smith a lump sum payment of the
• The total of all accrued vacation and leave time
• Any reimbursable expenses not yet reimbursed
• His regular pay and all salary and benefits multiplied by 12
The involuntary severance package is due to Smith, regardless of the reason for the termination, unless the reason would prevent him from receiving unemployment benefits from the state Employment Security Commission.
There already has been one attempt to fire Smith.
On July 16, commissioners voted down by a 6-1 margin Commissioner Joe Daughtery's motion to fire Smith.
Daughtery questioned Smith's credibility and honesty and said he had lost faith in him.
While some commissioners agreed with some of Daughtery's comments, they said they were not in position to be without a county manager.
Daughtery at that time denied rumors that had persisted since prior to the 2012 election that firing Smith had been his goal since he filed for office last year.
However, two weeks later, Daughtery apologized for his actions.
"Since that time I have received additional information that enables me to state that this is not the time for us to make a change in our current management and that it would be in the best interest of our county that we proceed on with our current management," Daughtery said.
He did not elaborate on what the additional information was, or where it came from and after the meeting declined further comment about the nature of the information.