By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times
The often contentious NARCOG board found common ground Wednesday in agreeing to pay the agency’s new executive director $95,000 annually plus benefits.
The 14-member board of the North-central Alabama Regional Council of Governments voted unanimously on the annual salary for incoming executive director Jeffrey Pruitt. The pay is in the middle of the position’s $76,000 to $122,000 salary range.
“Mr. Pruitt brings 30 years experience in this field, and I think it’s fair to start him at that pay level,” said Barney Lovelace, NARCOG’S attorney .
A three-year contract with Pruitt must still be finalized before he can start Aug. 19 at the tri-county agency headquartered in Decatur, Lovelace said.
Pruitt has served as planning director for the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments 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.
“I think we’ve taken a huge step forward, and we don’t plan on going backwards,” said Stanley Yarbrough, Cullman County Commissioner and chairman of NARCOG’s five-member executive committee.
Added Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long: “It’s going to be a challenge coming in, but we have a lot of confidence in him. I’m just happy the three counties have come together to work together because that’s what the people want us to do.”
The executive committee has been tasked with coming up with the terms of Pruitt’s contract with Lovelace, and its members have stressed the need to examine and revamp the agency’s personnel policies. Some terms of the proposed 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 board agreed Wednesday to allow the executive committee to finalize the contract with Pruitt.
NARCOG serves Cullman, Morgan and Cullman counties and has been operating without a director for about a year and a half 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.
The NARCOG board conducted other business Wednesday:
Approved May bills.
Tabled approval of audit for fiscal 2011 budget that ended Sept. 30, 2012 until next meeting 10 a.m. Aug. 28.
Approved $2,537.50 bill for Bingham Edward’s legal representation of former interim executive director Lona Johns. Edward charged $175 per hour.
Received update from Lovelace regarding West Point Mayor Kenneth Kilgo’s request for NARCOG to pay for his lawyer, Dan Willingham, to represent him in former aging director Rodney Gann’s lawsuit against Kilgo, the agency and Johns. Lovelace said he plans to speak to Willingham about his rate of $175 per hour for legal services.
Tiffeny Owens can be reached at email@example.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 135.