March 19, 2013 10:25:48 AM
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors unanimously authorized attorney Jack Brown to seek outside counsel Monday to represent the county in litigation surrounding a denied tax office payroll request.
Board Vice President John Montgomery confirmed tax assessor Allen Morgan filed a bill of exceptions with Circuit Court after the board failed March 4 to allow a payroll increase for a full-time tax office employee.
Monday's motion explicitly allows Brown to search for more than one candidate for counsel and states before making a final selection, supervisors will have an opportunity to communicate with the representative.
The litigation itself was not discussed during Monday's open meeting beyond the motion to seek counsel.
Morgan promoted a part-time tax office worker in November to full-time status. The worker, identified as Patsy Henderson on the litigation, never received a slight pay increase and benefits associated with full-time employment, including sick leave, personal time off, holiday pay, state retirement or insurance coverage, Morgan said.
State law dictates tax office hiring is left to the discretion of the tax assessor, Morgan said earlier this month. The full-time slot was already budgeted and approved by supervisors in the county's Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget, Morgan said after the March 4 board meeting, yet the employee continues to receive part-time benefits.
Following a 20-minute, executive session during the March 4 board meeting to discuss the personnel matter between the board, Morgan and attorney Russ Rogers, supervisors tied in two separate votes on the matter.
First, the board tied 2-2 to delay formal action on the matter until its March recess meeting. That motion was made by District 3 Supervisor Marvel Howard and seconded by District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams.
District 4 Supervisor Daniel Jackson then motioned to make Morgan's recommended payroll change and was seconded by Montgomery. Again, the board ended in a 2-2 tie with Howard and Williams opposing.
Morgan asked supervisors on March 4 if the meeting's minutes would reflect how individual supervisors voted. Board members said they would.
Board President Orlando Trainer was absent from the March 4 meeting, which created the possibility of a 2-2 deadlock on votes. That same situation was created Monday due to Howard's absence. Morgan was also not present at the meeting.
"Several different attorneys' general opinions say as long as the tax assessor is within budget, he's within the scope of that office," Montgomery said following the meeting. "I'm going to back up the tax assessor. That's why I voted the way I did."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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