By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times
After operating without an executive director for the past two years, the embattled North-central Alabama Regional Council of Governments will finally get a new boss next week.
Jeffrey Pruitt signed a three-year employment contract for the position Wednesday during NARCOG’s executive committee meeting. He will start Monday, with his annual pay set at $95,122 plus benefits.
“I’m very excited to get started,” Pruitt said. “I’m looking forward to working with everyone, all the different communities, and finding out what we can do to make this a great place to help people.”
Pruitt comes to NARCOG after working as planning director at the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments, or TARCOG, since 2003. Before working in Huntsville, Pruitt was planning and development director for the Shelby County Planning Department from 1990-2003. He has a master’s degree in community planning from Auburn University.
NARCOG’s attorney, Barney Lovelace of Decatur, drafted the contract with input from the five-member executive committee and conversations with Pruitt.
Some terms of the contract include:
An annual self-evaluation to be discussed and approved by the board.
Any reimbursed expenses must serve a purpose for NARCOG.
Use of an agency vehicle under the same guidelines as regular employees (check-in, check-out).
Board can cancel contract without cause at anytime but must pay compensation for remaining term of the agreement.
Pruitt must submit notice of his resignation within three months of leaving; anything less will automatically terminate the contract.
“This agreement protects NARCOG as well as Mr. Pruitt,” Lovelace said. “We’ve laid out some parameters, but there’s also some flexibility in there too.”
Lovelace emphasized that the contract contained no salary guarantees beyond the starting pay so that the board could review Pruitt’s performance and decide whether to give him pay raises in the future.
The full 14-member NARCOG board previously agreed Pruitt, 58, could continue to reside in Huntsville. All of NARCOG’s previous executive directors lived in Morgan or Cullman counties.
On Wednesday, executive committee member Priceville Mayor Melvin Duran said he and other board members are concerned that NARCOG employees haven’t had a cost-of-living raise in the past four years.
“I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job, but that is something that is a concern,” Duran said.
Pruitt said one of his first priorities will be evaluating the tri-county agency’s budget. Lovelace said he wants Pruitt to also review NARCOG’s personnel manual and suggested revisions made to it by the agency’s previous legal counsel for consideration.
“I think Mr. Pruitt should have the first stab at it, and then maybe we could bring some of those changes back to the board to review,” Lovelace said.
NARCOG serves Cullman, Morgan and Cullman counties and has been operating without a director since Neal Morrison left for a post in Gov. Robert Bentley’s cabinet in September 2011.
After Morrison left, the executive director’s position was offered to Cullman County resident Shane Bailey in January 2012, but he declined to take it after several months due to the uncertainty surrounding the organization. Since then, Lona Johns and more recently Stephanie Franklin have served as interim directors.
Tiffeny Owens can be reached at email@example.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 135.