County commissioners compromise on appointed employee contracts


County commissioners formed a compromise on appointed department head contracts during a work session earlier this week, which includes a proposed plan to begin a search for a new county administrator.

Ron Cink has served the county in dual roles as county administrator and budget director since late 2014, but Commissioners Jeb Ball and Joe Davis said they wanted to see Cink’s positions be split back into two separate jobs before they were willing to vote to advance the other department heads’ contracts.

“There is too much going on, and as good as Ron is, we need two people in those slots,” Davis said. “To make it a permanent arrangement wasn’t fair to him and it wasn’t fair to our citizens in terms of getting things done.”

Commission Chairman Skip Gruber said he felt Cink had done well in the dual roles and thought he should be allowed to continue in them.

“I don’t see where there has been a problem,” Gruber said. “It’s working. It’s not broken. It’s worked well for the last whatever years it has been and there haven’t been any problems with it. I don’t like that we’re adding stipulations to anything and it’s almost like we’re using that person as a hostage.”

Gruber and Davis began an exchange at that point:

Davis: That’s your opinion. He’s got two jobs. He’s only one person.

Gruber: That’s not fair to the rest of these other people.

Davis: I can’t in good conscience move forward with pay increases when we have a strategic flaw with the way we’re set up.

Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood said she felt comfortable leaving Cink in the dual role of county administrator and budget director, adding that she also thought holding up all of the other contracts was not right.

“I don’t think it’s fair to all the contract employees to do that,” Underwood said.

The commissioners moved forward in negotiating raises for the following appointed positions:

- A $154,000 per year salary for County Engineer Joey Nunnally

- A $120,000 per year salary for Communication and Information Systems Director Brian Peacock

- A $120,000 per year salary for Clerk/Treasurer Kim Creech

- A $90,000 per year salary for Juvenile Detention Center Director Ron Ballard

- A $109,000 per year salary for Building Official Mike Howell

- A $112,000 per year salary for Solid Waste Director Terri Graham

The commission also decided to start the process for posting job positions for EMA Director and Personnel Director. Those positions are currently held by Interim Directors Jessie Peacock and Deidra Hanak, respectively.

The commissioners encouraged the interims to apply for the positions.

“This has nothing to do with existing personalities or performance from these people,” Davis said. “It’s part of a process we need to go through so that the public knows we’re going through the right process.”

Numbers for Cink’s salary then came up, with the commissioners again splitting 2-2 on how they thought Cink should be compensated and whether he should remain in the dual roles.

Commissioner Ball questioned Cink directly as to what he personally wanted to do.

“I serve at the pleasure of the commission,” Cink said. “I’m good all the way around. I’ll do either job. Y’all need to figure out what you want to do.”

Following a lengthy discussion, the commissioners agreed on a plan that would move Cink back into the budget director role and give that job responsibilities and authority as a potential assistant county administrator. Cink would serve as acting county administrator until the position can be filled by a permanent candidate.

Cink’s new salary for the modified position would be $121,500.

While Underwood still had reservations about such a position change, Gruber, Ball and Davis said that solution could work for them.

The commissioners will vote on the employee contracts at its Jan. 15 meeting.