Two Cherokee County elected officials feel they were misled and slandered by the Cherokee County Commissioners when they submitted pay increase requests.
“We do not think we should be able to set our own salaries, we fully understand the commissioners set the salaries of all county employees,” said Cherokee County Register of Deeds Christie Grant. “We were told by Commissioner Pat Collins, and the commissioners’ attorney Kevin Cure to turn our pay change requests into the payroll clerk and the commissioners would take up the matter.”
“This was not something that is just starting, we sent raise requests to the commissioners in July of 2008, before the election,” said County Treasurer Juanita Hodgeson. “We asked for a raise that would bring our salaries equal to other department heads that have been hired in the last year, without our years of experience or tenure with the county.”
“In July we went and asked the commissioners for a raise, when they hired the Emergency Preparedness director fulltime at $45,000,” said Hodgeson. “There are seven department heads making more than we are, and six of them are appointed, not elected positions. All we asked is to be brought up to level of the road supervisor and Emergency Preparedness director. We didn’t try to go to the top just in the middle.”
“The people hired by and answering to the commissioners are getting paid on a higher pay scale than those of us answering to the voters,” said Grant. “Those in appointed offices do not have to run for re-election, they just have to answer to the commissioners, not the voters.”
“In July the commissioners said they would look at our requests, Rod Edmonson (then a commissioner) said he agreed we should be increased but he was running for County Clerk and he didn’t want to vote on it at that time.” said Grant. “We waited until after the election, in December we brought it up again. This time the commissioners said they wanted to wait until the new commissioners took office, and they wanted to talk to County Counselor Kevin Cure. Cure got back to us on February 18 and told us to give the pay request change to the payroll clerk. He said he would talk to the commissioners.”
“I took the change request into the clerks office and she told me it would have to be approved by the commissioners, I said okay and left the request with her,” said Hodgeson. “The next thing we heard were the headlines in the paper and on the news that we had tried to challenge the commissioners authority. That was not our intent, all we wanted was to be considered for a raise.”
“The new commissioners didn’t talk to us about this at all, they could have called us in and discussed it instead of making it appear we were trying to set our own salaries,” said Grant. “Commissioner (Richard) Hilderbrand was wrong about us trying to set our own salaries after we were elected. We approached the commissioners, before the election, and were told to wait. We went back in December and were told to wait. The third time in February we were told to give the request to the clerk by the commissioners’ attorney.
According to the commissioner’s minutes, the sheriff and undersheriff sought pay raises, since the election, but they were rejected.
Two positions in the sheriff’s office have been changed from hourly to salary positions.
Gary Allen was hired as Chief Deputy Sheriff a salaried position, at $32,000 and Art Mallory was hired as dispatch supervisor at $25,500 in addition to his part-time duties as assistant emergency preparedness director at a salary of $14,496.
Six deputies were given raises in January bringing their annual salaries to $23,328 before overtime.
The only raises the elected officials have been given in the past five years were cost of living adjustments given to all county employees.
“With the experience we have in our jobs we feel we should be receiving at least equal pay to those currently being hired into new jobs,” said Grant. “We love our jobs but we hate the politics. Our offices serve the public efficiently, with our experience, we have made changes that save the taxpayers money or make the service better, for these reasons we felt we should have raises but had they said no, then at least we would have known.”
“The way they accused us of trying to go behind their backs, which was not true, was not the way this should have been handled,” said Hodgeson. “We are elected to our offices just as they are, and we all have to work together. It is not very professional to tell us what to do, then go to the press with untrue stories when we are trying to follow directions.”