On Tuesday, the Cullman County Commission unanimously approved pay raises for local elected officials — including themselves — that will bring their salaries in line with their predecessors, in addition to lump sum payments for back pay.
The county commission chairman, the two associate county commissioners, probate judge and revenue commissioner will all benefit from the vote. Local officials requested the pay change, citing a recent Attorney General’s opinion and the state’s 2000 Omnibus Pay Act which sought to make elected officials’ pay uniform.
The advisory AG opinion Sheriff Mike Rainey obtained last year states officials were entitled to their predecessor’s base salary and any pay raises given to the previous public official not based on length of service or experience.
County Administrator Gary Teichmiller will calculate what is owed in back pay for the commissioners, probate judge and revenue commissioner and then set their new pay accordingly.
Annual salaries will change as follows: Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker, from $53,428.68 to $60,124.41; Associate Commissioners Darrell Hicks and Stanley Yarbrough, from $42,160.50 to $47,452.01, Probate Judge Tammy Brown, $81,862.38 to $83,508.05 and Revenue Commissioner Barry Willingham, from $74,365.02 to $78,893.46.
Incoming associate commissioners, Kerry Watson and Garry Marchman, along and sheriff-elect Matt Gentry will start making what their predecessors —Hicks, Yarbrough and Rainey respectively — make when the incumbents leave office.
Salaries are paid out of the county’s general fund.
“The pay raises — the cost-of-living adjustments — go with the position, not the person,” Yarbrough said. “We found out we were eligible to do it so we chose to. This will bring everyone’s pay in line.”
Hicks said adjusting the pay under the Omnibus Pay Act was voluntary, not mandatory. The county sent a letter to the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts July 29, requesting to its position on raising pay for other elected officials, besides sheriff.
“It was just a misunderstanding when the sheriff first brought it to the commission,” Hicks said. “We had the AG’s opinion, and then we got a second opinion from the state auditors that said it was OK to do it.”
The county commission first dealt with the issue when Rainey brought it to its attention after assuming office in January 2011. He reportedly was the only sheriff making less than his predecessor.
The commission declined to pay Rainey then what former sheriff Tyler Roden was making when he left office, citing an opinion it received from the state auditors.
When Rainey brought the issue up again in 2013, he had the Attorney General’s opinion on his side, and the commission agreed to pay him $15,510.15 in back pay and raise his salary from $63,248.38 to $67,100.28, which was what Roden made when he left office.
It was not clear how much the county would pay elected officials in back pay Tuesday, but The Times will publish the amount owed when it becomes available.
In other business, the commission:
Approved Aug. 26 minutes, appropriations, expenditures, payroll, requisitions and all journal entries to be posted.
Authorized Chairman Kenneth Walker to sign Cullman Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) third-party service contracts for fiscal 2015.
CARTS assists various local agencies like Victim Services and the Cullman County Center for Developmentally Disabled.
Authorized $354,424 payment to Good Hope Contracting for Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) project to pave County Road 1435 (Eva Road) from Alabama 157 to the Morgan County line.
Authorized $1,750 payment to the Cullman Area of Chamber of Commerce for promotion of Farm Y’all event and Cullman County Parks for fiscal 2015.
Approved $500 each for Valley Grove and Center Hill community centers for polling maintenance and support.
Declared surplus euthanasia equipment from the animal shelter to be sold as scrap.
Approved proposed 25-lot plat for Hawk's Nest subdivision located off CR-184 and variance of 15 mph speed limit.
Extended bid for cold laid plant mix to Good Hope Construction at previous price.
The county commission will hold a work session at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 23, followed by its 10 a.m. meeting.