Two elected county office holders are testing the authority of the County Commissioners to set their salaries.
County Treasurer Juanita Hodgeson and Christy Grant both sent into the county payroll clerk a request for 32-percent salary increases. Both of the two office holders are currently receiving a salary of $2835.33 per month ($34, 023 annually) from the county. They have both requested their month salary increased to $3750. ($45,000 annually)
Hodgeson also receives $10,465 extra compensation each year from the Auto Special fund in addition to her county salary. She may draw from the fund at anytime during the year.
“They believe they have the right to set their salary as long as it is within the department’s budget,” explained Commissioner Richard Hilderbrand. “We have a county policy which says the County Commissioners set the salary of all county employees, hourly, department heads and elected officials.”
After meeting with their attorney the Commissioners announced they would take no action on the requested increases.
The commissioners explained that “no action” meant the raises would not be processed.
“Every level of government is having problems, this is not the time to attempt to raise your salary by over 30-percent,” said Hilderbrand after the meeting. “Both of them knew what the salary was when they ran for re-election and now that they have been elected for another four years they are seeking to increase their salary.”
“We are doing some research, but we all feel the commissioners are charged with setting salaries,” said Commissioner Pat Collins.
County office holders appear to be taking a cue from former sheriffs in testing the commissioners authority.
For the last several years the Cherokee County Sheriff has exceeded the budget, without any apparent consequence, except from the voters.
The Lincoln County decision by the State Supreme Court which allowed the sheriff to exceed his budget “to fulfill his statutory requirements,” was supported by the state Treasurers Association, the State Registerer of Deeds Association and the state County Clerks Association as well as the Sheriff’s Association in opposing the authority of the Commissioners to regulate the departments other than setting a budget.
Several opinions and court cases have left the authority to set the County Elected Officials pay rate to the decision of the Commissioners there have been others giving only budget authority to the Commissioners.
One case in Riley County District Court directed the County Commissioners to set the county treasurer’s annual salary. The opinion was based on “the authority of the plaintiff (commissioners) is consistent with it’s general authority to direct the financial affairs of Riley County.”
This included the amount the Treasurer received from the state Auto special fund.