By Amanda McBride The Choctaw Plaindealer
Changes in personnel policy now allow current Choctaw County employees to transfer to another department without advertising for the open position. In the April 9 Board of Supervisors meeting, they approved to change the personnel policy after learning that Jeanith Burdine, payroll clerk, was taking a job in the Tax Assessor/Collector’s office. Steve Montgomery, Chancery clerk, informed the board that Lori Fiebig, tax assessor/collector offered Burdine a job and that she requested the board to approve Burdine’s hire at the same rate of pay. Fiebig was absent from the meeting. District 3 Supervisor Chris McIntire said the board needed to look at amending the personnel policy to allow current employees to apply for an opening before advertising the position. District 1 Supervisor Archie Collins agreed. Steve Wright, board attorney, suggested the board change the policy to state “current employees can be hired for an opening without advertising” or “current employees may be hired for opening in any other department without advertising.” A discussion began of whether or not the board should advertise for all open positions. “Why advertise and get people’s hopes up when we already have a person we want,” said McIntire. District 5 Supervisor Eric Chambers said he believes all open positions need to be advertised because a better person for the job may be in the general public. After more discussion about the personnel issue, Collins made a motion to amend the handbook to state “current employees may be hired for opening in any other department without advertising” with a second from District 2 Supervisor Larry McClain. The motion approved 3-2 with Chambers and District 4 Supervisor David Carter voting against it. “There’s a lot of things I’m not comfortable with right now,” said Carter about the personnel policy. Later in the meeting Montgomery recommended to the supervisors to transfer Lillie Anderson from the Chancery Clerk’s Office to the payroll clerk position and gave the board her resume. After more discussion and a short break, Montgomery said, in answering questions from Chambers, that Burdine verbally resigned to him before 8 a.m. that morning (April 9). Chambers then asked for Burdine to be called into the board room. She was and Chambers asked her if she had resigned. She said she had not resigned. Burdine was then excused from the room. Chambers said the events happening was an “orchestrated event” and suggested tabling the matter until they receive a written resignation. Carter suggested adding to the personnel policy that a written evaluation should be done at 90 days and six months by department supervisors. “That’s being fair because you want everyone to be successful as I do,” said Carter. No action was taken at this time and a board meeting was set for April 12. The Choctaw County Board of Supervisors met April 12 to discuss the ongoing personnel issues. At the beginning of the meeting, Chambers requested that written statement from him be entered into the board minutes and read the statement. A portion of the written statement includes, “Minutes after the motion, and adoption of the motion to change the policy, a discussion was begun to announce certain changes. The Clerk of the Board advised the attending Board that a County employee from the bookkeeping department had resigned and that she wished to relocate to the Tax Assessor-Collector office. During a short recess, I questioned this employee who then informed me that she had not resigned. Upon returning to the meeting, I then requested that this employee be called before the Board. She was then called to appear. I proceeded to ask her, in audience of the Board and the Clerk, if she had resigned and she stated to me again and to the others she had not.” Chambers also said in the written statement, “I believe that all positions that Choctaw County has to offer should be advertised publicly in the previously required manner and that any public citizen be offered ample opportunity to apply.” Chambers requested that his written statement be made part of the minutes. McIntire said that could happen only if the board votes on it. Toward the end of the meeting, Chambers made a motion to put his written statement in the minutes. Carter seconded the motion. Before calling for a vote, McIntire said “I don’t see the relevance.” The motion died 3-2 after Collins, McClain and McIntire voted against it. Chambers and Carter voted to allow it. Also in the April 12 meeting, the supervisors approved Burdine’s written resignation and two employee transfers. Collins made the motion to recognize Burdine’s resignation with a second by McClain. All board members read her resignation letter and a letter from Fiebig before voting. Carter made the motion to transfer Lillie Anderson to payroll clerk, to dissolve the percentage (payroll) match by the Chancery clerk and to have her evaluated at 90 days and 180 days by her day-to-day supervisor (Steve Montgomery) and report submitted to the board. Collins seconded the motion and all supervisors approved the transfer. The board then discussed the transfer of Sheila Reid to the Chancery Clerk’s office from the Tax Assessor’s office and to set the percentage paid by the board. McIntire reminded the board that the transfer would be an employee of Montgomery’s and he can hire who is wants because he is a fee official. McClain made the motion with a second from McIntire. During discussion, Chambers’ asked why Reid is making the transfer and McIntire answered “if you want to talk about personality we need to go into executive session. My understanding is that it is a realignment of duties. Just realigned the moves where everyone is happy.” All supervisors approved the transfer.