In or out?

Published 11:14 am Monday, October 29, 2012

WINDSOR – The Bertie County Commissioners for the second time tabled a new policy requiring local residency of its department heads.

During their regular meeting Oct. 15, the board instructed County Attorney Lloyd Smith and County Manager Morris Rascoe to bring back one policy which combined language from three policies the board studied.

Rascoe said the three policies were brought to the board after the commissioners discussed a residency requirement in a previous work session.

All three policies made it mandatory that county department heads live in Bertie County. The policies allowed those who lived outside the county from six months to one year to move into the county upon being hired as a department head. The provision included employees promoted from within that live outside the county.

“These policies are for your review if you want to add a residency requirement,” Rascoe said. “There is no law that says you have to.”

Commission Chairman L.C. Hoggard III took exception to the possibility, saying it was already difficult to find people to work in jobs located in Bertie County, including the prison, without adding other requirements.

“I look around and see three employees right now in this room who do not live in Bertie County, but that do an excellent job for our citizens,” he said.

Rascoe said the county could provide a provision that department heads simply needed to live within 50 miles.

“If you do that, there’s no reason to have a policy,” Commission Vice Chairman J. Wallace Perry said.

Rascoe said it should be remembered the policy only applied to department heads and not to “line workers.”

Perry said some of the biggest complaints he had received from the county’s citizens were local government employees not living in the county. He said that was something that the board should address.

Commissioner Norman M. Cherry Sr. said the policies as presented would allow a year to have department heads move into the county.

The policies also grandfathered in current department heads.

Smith said the only concern he had as far as the policies was a provision in one which allowed the board to heard appeals on a case-by-case basis.

“I urge you to take out the deviation language,” Smith said.

The county attorney said a case-by-case basis left the county open to being sued because of allowing one person not to adhere to the policy while requiring others to abide by it.

“The county has been in existence for 250 years without a policy,” Smith said. “I would ask that you give us a couple of weeks to consolidate them and bring back a recommendation.”

The board agreed by consensus to have Smith and Rascoe bring back one draft of the policy for them to review and decide as to whether or not to proceed.