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Law does not grant job security to top Morgan commission posts

By Sheryl Marsh
smarsh@decaturdaily.com · 340-2437

A new state law does not give merit protection for Morgan County’s administrator and deputy administrator as Commission Chairman John Glasscock led commissioners to believe.

At a Sept. 11 meeting, Glasscock said he was following the law when he got the commission to change Administrator Syble Atkins’ title to chief administrative officer and Deputy Administrator Carol Long’s title to deputy chief administrative officer.

Long’s title is not included in the law.

The two positions are appointments of the chairman. Glasscock said when he got the commission to change the titles that they became regular county employees with merit system rights.

That’s not so, said Sonny Brasfield, assistant executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.

The law contains mandates concerning elections and other matters, but the portion about the commission employing a chief administrative officer is for statutory recognition only. It is not a mandate.

“Before now there’s been no reference in the law concerning a county administrator,” Brasfield said.

“In the past, the law referred to a clerk performing the administrative duties. The new law gives statutory recognition of the role. This doesn’t provide any merit system protection for anyone, absolutely not.”

Commissioners said they had not read the law and were doing what Glasscock asked them to do based on what he said about the law.

“He (Glasscock) said the Legislature passed it, and this was what we were to adopt,” District 4 Commissioner Stacy George recalled. “I guess we should’ve looked at the law. It’s good to know that the next chairman still has the right to choose two people he wants for the jobs like it’s been done all these years.”

District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark said Glasscock must have been confused.

“He must not have understood,” Clark said. “It’s always been my understanding that the county administrator worked at the pleasure of the chairman. It’s always worked well the way we’ve done it.”

Livingston said he understands that a chairman would want to keep experienced people in the positions, but he didn’t vote on merit benefits.

“Just because John (Glasscock) said it, doesn’t mean it changed anything. What I voted on was the titles of their jobs.”

Livingston is right, the commission changed the titles. But Glasscock made this statement: “This means that the chairman no longer has any political appointments. They are now county employees with merit system rights.”

That would mean they retained their jobs even if Glasscock did not seek or win re-election.

When questioned last week, Glasscock told The Daily that he believed the law authorized him to make the changes. He didn’t back down from his belief when told what Brasfield said.

Brasfield said he couldn’t address the employment arrangement of any county, but the law does not give permanency to the positions. The commission didn’t have to take any action in accordance with the bill.

“It says “may” not “shall,” Brasfield explained. “The association would not have proposed a bill to mandate county commissions to do that. This law does not put any position under a county’s merit system.”

Glasscock took advantage of his appointment privilege when he became chairman. He allowed the former administrator to complete a little more than a year before she retired, and he moved Atkins into the position. He promoted Long to Atkins’ old post as deputy administrator.

“This is what I mean,” said George. “John got to do what he wanted to do, and now he wants to stop the next chairman from doing so. It’s a good thing he can’t do that. If we need to rescind the resolution that he got us to pass for the positions, I’ll be glad to do it.”

Brasfield said resolutions may come and go.

“They can pass one and come back and pass another,” Brasfield said.

Atkins’ annual salary is $73,465.60, and Long’s is $69,305.60.

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