BLOOMFIELD, Mo. - Stoddard County Treasurer/Collector Carla Knowles Moore told the County Commission that she would not sign the checks written by Prosecutor Russ Oliver to provide a $1,000 Christmas bonus for his employees. Moore cited conflicting opinions from state agencies about the constitutionality of the bonuses as her reason for not signing the checks at the commission meeting held Thursday morning.
Moore went on to say that if the prosecutor wanted to file contest her decision not to sign the checks, then she wanted the commission to retain an attorney to represent the treasurer's office. She said it would then be up to a court to sort through the conflicting opinions and issue a final decision.
Oliver has twice appeared before the commission in recent weeks about giving his employees a Christmas bonus. He said the money for the raises would come from a discretionary fund (delinquent tax funds) in the prosecuting attorney's office. Presiding Commissioner Greg Mathis and Commissioner Frank Sifford refused to sign the vouches for the bonuses as submitted by Oliver.
Oliver was asked by the commission to meet with them and other county elected officials at a meeting Dec. 17. He did so and defended his decision to provide a $1,000 bonus to his employees.
He said he did not need the approval of the commission, and cited Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 56, Section 56.312 which states, "No prior approval of the expenditures from this fund shall be required by the governing body of the county...nor shall any prior audit or encumbrance of the fund be required before any expenditure is made by the prosecuting attorney from this fund. This fund may be audited by the state auditor's office or the appropriate auditing agency."
Moore said the State Auditor's office was contacted. The opinion given to Moore was that granting extra compensation is contrary to the Missouri Constitution.
She also said the Missouri
Association of Counties was contacted and they were of the opinion that Oliver could use the discretionary funding for such a purpose.
A neighboring county used the discretionary funds to provide a one-time payment to their employees. The payment was the subject of a Management Advisory Report by the State Auditor.
The report stated, "The county made one-time payments in lieu of permanent cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to employees and elected officials which may be in conflict with the Missouri Constitution...the payments were not based on additional duties performed or performance appraisals. In addition, the payments were not considered raises or added to the base compensation of employees."
It goes on to state, after noting that it was done at the end of each fiscal year based on the prior year's fiscal outcome, "However, awarding additional pay to employees or elected officials on a discretionary basis appears to conflict with Article III, Section 39, Missouri Constitution, which prohibits granting any extra compensation, fee or allowance to employees for services already rendered."
This was all discussed at the Dec. 17 meeting. Oliver said it was his decision to give the bonuses and he was going through with it. Money collected under the discretionary funding is deposited by the county treasurer into a separate interest-bearing fund. As such, checks issued from the account require the signature of the county treasurer, Carla Knowles Moore.
In other action, the commission voted 2-1 to revise the deductible for employee health insurance. Mathis and Commissioner Carol Jarrell voted to change the way the deductible is paid. The county health insurance policy has a $5,000 deductible. Last year the county paid the first $4,000 of the deductible and the employee paid the last $1,000.
The commission approved changing that so that the employee would pay the first $1,500 of the deductible, and the county would pay the final $3,500 of it. Sifford voted against the change. The change would save the county approximately $15,000 per year, based on last year's pay-outs by the county.
Mathis said he would be agreeable to revisiting the matter if the federal government does not come to an agreement on the "fiscal cliff." He noted that if income taxes go up as a result of no action by Congress, then he would consider changing the deductible to help county employees.
In other business, the commission accepted the resignation of David Agey of Dexter as president and a member of the Sewer District Number 1 Board. Mathis said David Mulcahy was also going to resign from the board. It will be up to the commission to appoint two members to replace them.
The county is to be reimbursed $810 from the contractor on construction of a bridge on County Road 420. The bridge is completed and the contract was Chester Bross Construction.
According to a letter from Smith and Company, the engineering firm for the project, one testing on concrete used on a section of the decking of the bridge did not meet specifications. Smith and Company said it in no way affected the safety or the structure of the bridge.
The commission voted 3-0 to pay newly elected Commissioner Danny Talkington and County Coroner Kenny Pope base pay which will not include any cost-of-living increases. The commission has not approved cost-of-living increases for next year, but decided that the newly elected officials would not be included if the raises are approved in the new budget.