At the start of Tuesday morning’s county commission meeting, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the commissioners would go through with a plan to appoint Erin Griffith as the county’s new fiscal manager and grants coordinator.
But what happened next came as a surprise.
The commissioners had discussed the Griffith hiring last month, asking County Coordinator Michael Morón to consult with the county’s outside attorney Leonard Carson and County Attorney Michael Shuler, both of whom advised that they could move forward without being required to advertise for the job.
So, the commissioners unanimously voted to move Griffith out of the finance office and into a new role alongside Morón in the county planning office in the annex.
Griffith had agreed to an annual contract in which she reports directly to the commissioners, with grant managing duties in which she’ll be their lead agent in addressing county budgets, and managing a web of grant opportunities involving a host of state and federal agencies. Clerk of Courts Michele Maxwell is likely to hire a replacement for Griffith in the finance office soon after she is sworn in in January.
Beginning with the first of the year, Griffith will be paid $68,000 annually, in line with what department heads make. Funding for the new post will come out of the professional services budget, which has funded former county planner Alan Pierce’s salary, as the liaison for Restore Act monies, as he gradually wraps up his duties and eyes his retirement after many years with the county.
“He (Pierce) is ready to retire and enjoy life, and somebody’s got to fill in,” said Commissioner Smokey Parrish. “I think we need to more forward and fill some of the functions, we’re short-staffed and they all have a fulltime job.
“We all trust her to do that job and do that well,” he said, noting that FEMA projects can be a heavy lift just by themselves.
“There’s a host of other things that she’ll be doing that have fallen through the cracks because we don’t have the staff,” Parrish said. “We’re just reallocating some of the responsibilities and there will be more that we don’t even see today.”
Commissioner Noah Lockley was just as enthusiastic. “I’ve been begging for a grant writer. I’m glad to see this happen,” he said. “There’s a lot of grants out there and we’ve been missing them. I know neighboring counties are getting millions of dollars in grants.”
Commissioners also are hoping some of the grant administration fees may go towards offsetting some of the additional costs of Griffith’s salary.
But what happened next came somewhat as a surprise, as commissioners voted unanimously on a motion by Commissioner Bert Boldt to boost the pay of three other high-level staffers, Morón, County Planner Mark Curenton and Finance Director Linda Phillips.
With each getting a pay hike of $3,800 per year, Curenton will now make $71,917 annually, Phillips $68,523 and Morón $68,046.
“It’s a value-added recognition of the work he (Morón) has done,” said Boldt, noting along with his colleagues that he has been instrumental in the information technology work that has enabled the county to bring its meetings and their presentations into the world of 2020 technology.
After the county staffers’ pay rates were addressed, the commissioners voted unanimously to address Shuler’s compensation by placing him on a retainer. This will mean he will be paid $112,000 annually and will no longer submit billable hours.
Shuler had been paid $100 per hour, billed in six-minute increments, funded out of a $100,000 annual line item in the county budget. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, Shuler billed a total of $84,550 worth of hours.
In the event the county has to seek outside counsel, they have turned to Leonard Carson, who charges an hourly rate of $265.
This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: County appoints Griffith new fiscal manager