We shouldn’t have to ask

Published 2:13 pm Sunday, May 1, 2011

To the Editor:

After this year’s discovery of Zee Lamb’s 2009 untimely raise, I asked Commissioner Wallace Perry why he didn’t tell supporters while campaigning for reelection during 2010 that he had given Lamb such an enormous pay hike and why he did it during our nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. He grinned and said, “You didn’t ask”. 

As most agree, Wallace barely beat his opponent last year because the raise in question was unknown to most everyone during the election.  Who would have known to ask Wallace Perry if the Commissioners had granted Lamb such a lofty raise? Why didn’t Wallace campaign on it when it appeared he needed everything in his political arsenal to win since he only surpassed his opponent by a few hundred votes? Why did he not mention the raise during his many stump speeches and phone calls asking for support?  And who would have known to ask any commissioner when the only record in the County public minutes allegedly explaining the raise reads as follows, “Commissioner Harrell introduced a MOTION to instruct the County Attorney to draw up a final contract for the County Manager for the Chairman to sign. Commissioner Perry SECONDED the motion. The MOTION PASSED unanimously.”

 I doubt that even Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code, could decipher this enigmatic synopsis to even remotely conclude that Commissioner Harrell had in fact introduced a motion to draw up a closed door new employment contract approving County Manager Zee Lamb’s unprecedented 46% compensation hike, increasing his salary to over $150,000.  It appears that two seasoned news reporters, two highly experienced municipal law attorneys and most of the Bertie County citizenry couldn’t solve the riddle either.   Wallace, no one asked because no one knew except you and the rest of the commission closed door inner circle.

This past week, Martin County Commissioners unanimously approved in open session, in very clear language, a $30,000 pay raise to $111,000 for their manager. This is far closer to the regional average than Lamb’s.   They didn’t wait 18 months and pay their County Attorney to write a fourteen page dissertation as justification.  They explained their actions and told their citizens the exact amount of the raise and when it was to take effect if approved. They did this in front of all other county employees who didn’t receive a raise.  No one can argue that the disputed raise was hidden or given non-transparently.   At least they did it in the open and are willing to accept political accountability for their actions. 

Lloyd Smith, said “the Bertie County Commissioners have never attempted to hide anything from anyone”.  It appears that Martin taxpayers do not need such assurances from their county attorney. They don’t have to ask why, when and how their Manger received a controversial raise with their hard earned money.

Wallace, we shouldn’t have to ask either.

Fen Rascoe