Paycheck flap in Lawrence
County forced to delay payment of 7% raises; lack of staffing blamed
By Nancy Glasscock
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MOULTON — Lawrence County employees will get a 7 percent raise retroactive to Oct. 1 on their first November paycheck, commissioners said Thursday.
The County Commission passed the raise included in the yearly budget Sept. 25, two days before it voted to terminate the contracts of former administrators Linda Harville and Karen Harrison. Commissioner Alma Whitlow said the understaffed county office didn't have time to update the computer payroll system before checks were distributed Thursday, but Chairman Bradley Cross said the county has "no excuse" for waiting until November to include raises in employees' paychecks.
"There's no excuse for it, and that's what makes me mad," Cross said.
The conflict over paychecks is the latest disagreement between Cross and other commissioners.
Cross said office staff had assistance from someone from the Colbert County Commission office who knows how to update the payroll system. He said the county could have waited until Friday to distribute paychecks with raises included. Whitlow, however, said the computer payroll system could not have been completely updated by Friday.
With Harville's and Harrison's contracts terminated amid an FBI investigation of the commission offices, Peggy Dawson, an accountant, is managing daily county business with the help of commissioners and volunteers. Payroll clerk Beronica Warren went on a two-week medical leave Monday.
Warren told commissioners Monday that she had been under "severe stress" and was unable to do her job last week, when the Sheriffs Department scanned the hard drives of four computers in the commission building.
Whitlow said the county office is running efficiently despite being understaffed.
"We're doing very well to have an office that normally had four or five people, down to one employee," she said.
Whitlow said employees didn't seem upset when they were given checks.
"Everyone seems tickled to death," she said. "I have found nobody to be upset."
Joye Cameron, a custodian at the commission building, said she wasn't angry that the raise hadn't been included in her paycheck. Cameron has been a county employee for seven years and said she's "been through it all."
"I'm just glad to know that we're going to get a raise," she said. "I think everything is going to work out good, and I think everybody in the building feels about the same as I do."
Commissioner John Terry said county officials are moving the county government to "sound financial footing" after a recent controversy involving the two former administrators. The commission voted to terminate Harville's and Harrison's contracts after an FBI investigation revealed a clock radio with a hidden camera in the commission office.
Harville and Harrison don't deny they placed the clock radio in the office, commissioners said. Terry said Harville wrote herself a check for $27,000 before leaving office last month, and that $300,000 had been discovered in certificates of deposit at a bank in Decatur.
"We are starting out with new employees and with new procedures that I believe will serve Lawrence County well in the future," Terry said.
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