Effingham County commissioners approved hiring a temporary county administrator Tuesday, though there were concerns and questions raised about the process.
By a 3-1 vote, commissioners appointed county public works engineer Toss Allen to fill in as county administrator.
Commissioners approved a separation agreement with David Crawley, who had been the county administrator, the week before. Crawley’s final day on the payroll was May 24.
“You have a non-paying, additional job,” Kessler told Allen.
Commissioners Forrest Floyd, Vera Jones and Phil Kieffer voted to place Allen as the temporary county administrator.
Commissioner Reggie Loper voted against it and Commissioner Steve Mason was not present when the vote was taken, though he joined the meeting later.
“If I had a vote, I would vote against it as well,” Kessler said.
Kessler, though, was concerned that the item was placed on an agenda for a meeting that was scheduled to be a workshop, where votes and action typically are not held.
Jones, who made the motion to add the item to the agenda, said the county needed someone to serve as a point of contact as the board goes over resumes and options.
“The citizens and the other elected officials would have a point of contact to be able to conduct the day-to-day business while we look for a permanent solution,” she said. “We need somebody in the position temporarily until the entire board can go through all the resumes and make a decision.
“But everyday things are coming up,” Jones added. “This is not a rash, un-thought-out decision. I think it would strengthen the board’s position to have someone in there.”
Said Floyd: “I think it’s imperative.”
“I think it’s OK to have someone in there,” Kieffer said, “only if for a while.”
Allen told commissioners he was not a candidate for the permanent position but he would be willing to serve on an interim basis.
Kessler also was worried that Allen had enough to do already as the county public works engineer.
“I do not believe this is in the best interest of the county for you to be in that position,” Kessler told Allen. “You are overworked and we talked about needing additional engineering to get things done. To put you in a position that takes away from that does not meet common sense. I have no question you will do the best job you can do and you do a good job for the county. It is not your job performance I’m putting into question.”
Allen said several of the projects he has been working on are nearing a stage where the work will fall to others, such as right-of-way acquisition on Courthouse Road Extension. He said the Old Augusta Road phase now under way should be completed soon, except for the traffic signal at Old Augusta and Highway 21.
“For some, the work has been done and the bids have been received,” Allen said. “It will require some moving around of the schedule.”
Kessler also said the commissioners were quick to appoint an interim county clerk.
“And not once have they said they were going to pay her any more,” he added.
The commissioners approved a separation agreement May 21 for both David Crawley and Patrice Crawley, who had been the county administrator and county clerk, respectively.
Under the terms of the separation agreement, the Crawleys will receive one year of his salary’s as county administrator, $90,000, plus the monetary equivalent of a year of health insurance. The Crawleys also will be compensated for unused vacation and leave time for a total package of nearly $135,000.
Commissioners also agreed to defend the Crawleys in any civil action brought against them from their roles as county administrator and county clerk. The county also will provide job references, if requested, that are positive consistent with job performance.
“I have been running around here all day long trying to do whatever it takes to keep this county going,” Kessler said at Tuesday’s meeting. “And I probably will get chastised for some of that as well. I have found that is my duty under standard operating procedures to do certain things. I’ll do whatever it takes to help the county. On the other hand, I’m certainly not looking for a job.”
Kessler said that Jones asked him “a long time ago” that “if we can get rid of David Crawley, would you fill that position until we go another administrator, and I said no, because I have other things to do as well.”
Jones said that may have not been the exact wording she used at the time.
“I have had concerns about that position, as well,” she said. “If that position comes open, we need to make smart, intelligent decisions in the meantime.”
Kessler said he was trying to figure out what responsibility the interim clerk and temporary administrator would have.
“A smart, intelligent decision would have had an exit strategy to have somebody in place to put in there before we got rid of the people who were here,” he said.