By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times
The Cullman County Commission has decided to delay paying Sheriff Mike Rainey $15,000 in back pay the Alabama Attorney General’s office says is due to him until it can get permission from state auditors.
The commission on Tuesday voted to postpone issuing Rainey the $15,090.01 the county owes him for not paying the first-term sheriff at the same rate as his predecessor, former sheriff Tyler Roden, who served 16 years. Rainey is currently making $63,248.38 annually while Roden left office with a $67,100.28 salary. Rainey started the job making $61,406.28.
“I’m ready to put this all behind us,” Rainey said. “I don’t know why it keeps dragging out.”
Rainey is currently the only sheriff in the state not making the same as his predecessor, said Bobby Timmons, executive director of the Alabama Sherriffs’ Association. Rainey sought and received an attorney general opinion on the matter which stated he was entitled to his predecessor’s base salary and any pay raises given to the previous public official not based on length of service or experience.
Rainey first brought the issue to the commission’s attention shortly after assuming office in January 2011. The commission was told by the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts that Rainey was not entitled to Roden’s pay because some pay raises previously given to county employees and officials, including Roden, were classified as merit raises, not cost-of-living adjustments.
“It’s not a sense of entitlement. The association brought it to my attention, and I brought it to the commission who didn’t honor it,” Rainey told The Times earlier this month.
Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker said the county just wants to make sure it can pay Rainey the money without any unforeseen financial consequences in the future.
“Ten or 12 years ago the commission gave county employees a raise, and the commissioners and chairman got it too. Well then the next year, the state auditors came back and said that the chairman would have to pay his back,” Kenneth said. “We just want to get something official from them saying it’s OK to pay it.”
At the commission’s Aug. 13 meeting, County Attorney Heath Meherg said auditors told him the recent attorney general opinion would “trump” their opinion on the issue.
Timmons had strong words this week for the county commission and the state auditors for the delayed payment of Rainey’s back pay.
“This is just the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,” Timmons said. “They’ve got everything they need to make the right decision. The state law says he’s entitled to it, and now the attorney general says he’s entitled to it. There’s no justification to hold it up anymore. The state auditors’ job is to see that county money is being spent appropriately, not to give opinions.”
Meherg said he would send all the information the county has related to the matter, including the attorney general opinion, to the state examiners office to review.
Roden said when he took office in January1995, he started at the minimum $35,000 plus received a $3,000 annual stipend that was paid in monthly installments of $250. After the state legislature passed the Omnibus Pay Bill to make pay for elected officials uniform, Roden’s salary went to $50,000, and over his four consecutive terms, he received a number of pay raises, bringing his total salary to $67,000.
Since Rainey has been sheriff, the county has passed just one cost-of-living adjustment of 3 percent in 2012.
The county commission conducted other business Tuesday:
* Approved Aug. 13 meeting minutes, appropriations, expenditures, requisitions and journal entries.
* Approved beginning process of vacating Cullman County 828.
* Approved spending $500 for polling maintenance and operational support at each of the following voting precincts: Center Hill Community Center, Valley Grove Community Center and Joppa Volunteer Fire Department.
* Approved $8,543 expenditure to H & R Commercial Flooring for new flooring for Cullman County Economic Development office. The expenditure was not a part of the project’s original work contract.
* Authorized County Administrator Gary Teichmiller to sign change orders for the CCED renovation.
* Awarded bid for new routing software for Cullman Area Regional Transportation System, or CARTS, to RouteMatch Software in Atlanta, Ga. The project will be paid for with a $192,758 Alabama Department of Transportation grant which will require at $38,552 match.
* Awarded bid for plastic pipe to low bidder Harvey Culvert Company in Cleveland.
The commission will hold a work session 8:30 a.m. Sept. 10 followed by its regular meeting at 10 a.m.
*Tiffeny Owens can be reached email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 256-734-2131, ext. 135.