By Kate Kirby
After heated discussion and outbursts from citizens in attendance at the standing-room-only special meeting called September 26th at 6 P.M., Hawkins City Council voted unanimously not to approve the raises for city employees in three separate motions made by Stephan Lucas. The following account is taken from a draft of the minutes, not yet approved by council, and statements from several citizens in attendance that evening.
Item E on the agenda was a raise for Officer Scott Randell from $16 per hour to $17.50 per hour. This motion, made by Stephen Lucas was seconded by Clara Kay. Item F was to raise Eileen Frazier from $17.50 per hour to an annual exempt salary of $47,500.00, again moved by Lucas and seconded by Kay. The final item, labelled G, was for all full-time and part-time permanent employees of the City of Hawkins to receive an increase of $1.50 per hour, moved to not approve by Lucas and seconded by Wayne Kirkpatrick.
Earlier in the meeting, during the time for citizen statements, Cindy Douthitt addressed the council regarding the deficit spending and budgets. After reviewing the budget figures from 2013 to 2019, she stated that the council had passed a deficit budget for 7 consecutive years. Additionally, when the utility supervisor was promoted in 2013, he assumed his new job duties without increase. Douthitt went on to explain that the utility department has been working “a man short for about a year” without complaint. Douthitt stated that the last time raises were given to city employees, other than the chief of police, was 2015. Douthitt stated that in 2013 when the first deficit budget was passed, the City has 1.4 million dollars in reserve funds, and currently has only $550,000 in reserve funds, and she didn’t understand why the City would be considering giving employees raises at this time. She went on to say that she didn’t understand why one department was favored over another, and that the City departments must work together as the citizens expect.
Heated discussion leading up to the vote centered on two factors: first, giving raises while operating on a deficit budget; and second, raising Officer Eileen Frazier’s salary while she was operating as interim Chief of Police.
The intense discussion started shortly after a motion (on item E) to give Officer Scott Randall a raise from $16.00 to $17.50 per hour was made by Clara Kay. Stephen Lucas asked why Randall was being given a raise. Norma Ogelsby stated that the money was there because $17.50 was Frazier’s current salary (Randall would be promoted to Frazier’s old position).
Frazier was appointed to perform as interim Chief until the Council made a decision on a new Chief of Police. Lucas stated that he understood Frazier has been appointed interim Chief, but posed the question of what would happen if she was given the Chief’s salary, but someone else was ultimately hired as Chief. Ogelsby said that Frazier would go back to her former salary in that case. Ogelsby also stated that Frazier would be given the increase in salary because she was “doing the job,” to which several citizens in attendance spoke up that she was unable to do the job.
Frazier is currently recovering from knee replacement surgery and it was undetermined as to when she would be able to return to her job, according to Mayor Parker. Citizens continued to speak up during the discussion asking questions like, “who was doing the job while she could not?” and “was the city paying overtime for someone else to do the job?”
Wayne Kirkpatrick stated that he understood Frazier would be doing the paperwork required as Police Chief while at home. Voda stated that she was appointed interim Chief so that Hawkins would have an Officer in charge of the department with the legal responsibility, and since she could be charged criminally, she needed to be compensated for that responsibility.
Kirkpatrick stated that he wanted items E, F and G (the items on the agenda considering raises for city employees) discussed in executive session, and Kay withdrew her motion to raise Officer Randall’s salary (item E).
One citizen exclaimed that the Council should not discuss the items in executive session, but rather listen to the citizens. Kirkpatrick stated that they needed to “discuss this among themselves.” Mayor Parker stated that there would be no executive session this meeting due to the fact that it wasn’t on the agenda. Kirkpatrick asked to schedule an executive session, Parker asked if they could table the items E, F and G, followed by more outbursts from citizens in attendance stating that the “City should not be giving raises when there is no money.”
Kirkpatrick made the motion to table the items, seconded by Ogelsby, followed by more outbursts from citizens in attendance asking the council to discuss and make a decision now. Lucas stated that Kirkpatrick had signed for it to be on the agenda, and Kirkpatrick clarified that he had signed for items E and F to be on the agenda, but not G (the $1.50 raise for all city employees). Kirkpatrick made the point that the raises for Officers Randall and Frazier (items E and F) were compensation for position changes and “not really a raise.” Kirkpatrick repeated his motion for more discussion before action could be taken, but after citizens’ repeated outbursts about why the council was considering any raises and why Frazier would be given an increase while not physically able to perform the job, Lucas returned to his original question regarding would Frazier’s increase be taken away if she was not hired as Chief.
Kirkpatrick stated that Lucas should “not hold his breath” that somebody else applies. Mayor Parker said there was already one applicant and another showed interest. Kay confirmed that the council had been informed about one applicant at the last council meeting.
A citizen questioned where the job had been posted other than the Big Sandy and Hawkins Journal (this newspaper, the official newspaper for the City of Hawkins). Another citizen stated that the council appeared to use the term “interim” loosely and that someone who was appointed as an interim should not ask for a raise until they have completed the interim and proven by performance that they deserve a raise, to which the citizens clapped.
After discussion about following rules of order, placing items on the agenda and what needed to be voted on that day, a citizen (not Mayor Parker as in the print edition of this article – please note that a correction will be published in the next print edition) spoke out that the citizens, “should hear why they (council members) wanted them (the items) on the agenda, and who wanted them on there, and vote on the items; if, the Council had enough guts to do the vote in front of them (the citizens).”
Mayor Parker called for a vote on item F, the approval for Frazier from $17.50 per hour to the annual exempt salary of $47.5000.00. Ogelsby asked City Secretary Dona Jordan if the Chief for his raise because the Council was instructed by the State; that they had to a meet certain minimum. Jordan stated that the rule proposed by the Labor Board under Obama administration had been overturned and Ogelsby stated that the Council needed to discuss the salary for Chief in an executive session.
A citizen asked the council for clarification that if the City had to have an interim Chief as a “scape goat” if the City gets sued according to Ron Voda, why they would pick an interim that cannot do the duties for the first two months, and why not pick the one who can do the job immediately. Randall stated that he did not want the position.
Another citizen asked the Mayor why the City could not hire the person who had applied for the job, to which Parker replied that he had not had the opportunity to put the applicant before the council. After more heated discussion, Kirkpatrick reminded the Council that there was a current motion to table the discussion that had been seconded by Ogelsby. Ogelsby, Kay and Kirkpatrick voted to table the items. Lucas did not vote.
Kirkpatrick asked Mayor Parker if he was going to call a special meeting or wait. Kay made the motion to schedule a special meeting. Parker said he would not be “pushed into calling a special meeting.” Discussion ensued about current applicants and the TCOLE application process, background checks, costs and length of that process, which is mandatory for new applicants for Chief of Police.
Heated discussion continued about concerns for Frazier as interim Chief, raises for all city workers in a deficit budget, placing the raises on the agenda and changing support on raises once pressured by citizens. At one point, one citizen accused council members of having a “buddy system” in place. One citizen asked the council to “vote on the items (E, F and G) tonight.”
Lucas made the motion to un-table the items E F and G. City Attorney Alvin Flynn responded to a question posed by Kirkpatrick in order to make a decision on raises by saying if there was no decision made other than to table the raises, it would be “OK.” Kirkpatrick seconded the motion to un-table the vote on raises, which passed unanimously. Kirkpatrick moved to vote all three items, (E, F and G) at once, but citizens voiced that they did not want the items voted on in one motion.
Mayor Parker called for a vote on each item separately, as stated earlier in this report. No raises were approved.
In other business the City Council:
- Approved the City of Hawkins Police Department to enforce City Ordinance violations. Mayor Parker said he had taken some citizen complaints to the Police Department and was told that the Police Department needed approval from the council to enforce city ordinances. Stephen Lucas made a motion for Hawkins Police to enforce City Ordinances, Clara Kay seconded and it passed unanimously.
- Approved resolution 180917 for the expenditure of funds in excess of $10,000.00 by the Hawkins Economic Development Corporation for backstop chain link fencing from dugout at four baseball fields.
- Approved the final budget amendments for fiscal year 2017-2018.
- Approved an easement to SWEPCO for electricity to the Murphy Addition.
In attendance at the Sept. 26 special meeting was Mayor Tom Parker, Norma Ogelsby, Stephen Lucas, Clara Kay and Wayne Kirkpatrick. Cody Jorgenson was not present. Department heads Dona Jordan, Mike Maberry, Cindy Douthitt, Norma Hallmark, Police Chief Ron Voda and City Attorney Alvin Flynn were also present.