After two months of discussion, an appropriation ordinance that sets aside money to pay Jefferson County employees who work off-duty at the new E-Waste Recycling Center was approved by a majority of the quorum court on Monday night.
In March, the county’s legislative body tabled the proposal after Justice of the Peace Lloyd Franklin II voiced opposition, saying that employees who worked more than 40 hours would have to be paid overtime. County Attorney Jackie Harris, in a letter to Judge Dutch King earlier this month said Franklin’s claims were incorrect.
Last week, Franklin argued that the money from the grant should be given to the sheriff’s department, whose Clean Team currently works at the recycling center, with the department receiving $24,000 annually. He said the work load could be expanded, and with the money from the grant being applied to the sheriff’s maintenance and operation budget, a like amount could be cut and could be used to pay employees a Christmas bonus, which he said would probable amount to about $150 for each employee.
“The county employees see what is going on,” Franklin said. “If you’re not in the county judge’s office or the road department, you’re not getting raises. If we can set this aside, what’s to say we can’t accrue another $75,000 (before the end of the year) for bonuses. We have to start somewhere and this is perfectly legal.”
According to an email from Andrew Armstrong of the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District, which awarded the recycling grant to Jefferson County, Franklin’s idea is “absolutely not permissible.
“There is no entity that I am aware of that would allow an entity to supplement funds from an existing budget,” Armstrong said in the email to Daniel Marks, the grants administrator and legislative assistant to King. “Those grant funds are to be used for the stated purpose of recycling and keeping the regional center open on scheduled non-traditional hours.”
On Monday night, Franklin presented a poll he said was taken among some county employees asking if they would rather receive a Christmas bonus or work off-hours at the new recycling center, with a majority of those workers indicating they would rather have the bonus.
The poll did not include anyone from the county road department, the county judge’s office, prosecuting attorney’s office or the sheriff’s office, but did include 25 people Franklin said work at the adult jail, as well as people in some other departments.
Justice of the Peace Herman Ginger, chairman of the quorum court’s finance committee, told Franklin the poll was “worthless.
“It was performed by a biased auditor and doesn’t mean anything,” Ginger said before disagreeing with another Franklin statement that the issue had not been discussed at length in prior meetings.
“It was only discussed by one person and that is you and you were against it,” Ginger said. “You’re loud and there are 13 people on the quorum court who have just as many brain cells as you.
Franklin and JPs Reginald Adams and Morris Caldwell voted no on the appropriation ordinance while JP Edward Spears abstained.
During public comments before the vote, Pine Bluff Alderman Glen Brown addressed the county’s legislative body.
Brown said some county employees had complained to him about not getting raises while seeing two employees whose salaries were increased because of the recycling grant. Those increases were because the two employees took on additional management duties with the recycling department.
“It’s happening again tonight,” Brown said, referring to a provision of the ordinance that increases the salaries of two other county employees who will be doing additional work to promote recycling.
“What is happening right now may be legal but it is detrimental to Jefferson County,” Brown said.
Also Monday, a proposed ordinance that would transfer $$71,800 into the construction budget for the new sheriff’s office building was tabled until language in the ordinance can be modified.
Ginger made the motion to table the ordinance, saying that the quorum court has never approved funds for phase two of the construction, which is mentioned in the ordinance.
“I have no problem with the sheriff getting the money,” Ginger said. “I just don’t want him to think we have approved phase two because we haven’t.”
The motion to table was approved 12-0 with Spears abstaining.
An issue not on the original agenda resulted in a majority of the county’s legislative body giving their approval to the county paying JP Ted Harden’s expenses to attend a National Association of Counties meeting in New Orleans later this year .
Earlier in the year, the quorum court rejected Harden’s request for funds to attend another meeting of the association.
Ginger and JP Sissy Granderson voted no and Spears left before the vote.