Meeting stipends increased

Published 10:47 am Tuesday, October 10, 2017

WINTON – After postponing a decision for a month, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners voted on two items at their meeting here last week involving stipends paid to members of the county’s Board of Elections and Department of Social Services Board.

The items were tabled last month after Commissioner John Horton suggested more information was needed about how all members of similar appointed board are paid.

At last week’s meeting, the Commissioners were again presented with the board compensation requests from Elections and DSS.

In the case of the Elections Board, its chairman, A.B. Flanagan in a Sept. 8 letter sent to Commission Chair Ronald Gatling, had asked for his members to receive $200 each for the work they perform on Election Day as well as $100 per member for the required canvass that takes place one week following an election.

In his letter, Flanagan noted that Election Day requires board members to work all day, beginning at 6 am, and well into the night to ensure all votes have been tallied and all precinct supplies have been returned and property stored.

As for working the canvass, Flanagan’s letter noted that typically takes as much as five hours to complete. The work includes accounting for every ballot cast on Election Day as well as absentee and provisional ballots and any ballot that may be challenged.

The Hertford County Board of Elections is comprised of three members.

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams told the Commissioners that they are statutorily required to approve any stipend above $25 for members of other appointed boards.

Before any action was taken, Horton asked for some clarity over last month’s postponement of these two requests.

“We tabled this last month with some stipulations and I do not feel those stipulations have yet been met,” Horton noted. “We said we would have further discussion on this and I do not recall that discussion taking place. We said we would discuss (stipends for) all boards, but that hasn’t happened. Because of that I feel this needs to be tabled again.”

Williams said there was discussion over this matter held in closed session at last month’s meeting.

“What I heard in closed session was why I placed this on your agenda for this meeting,” she said. “If I misheard something, then this (placing the item on the current agenda) is my mistake.”

Williams also reminded the Commissioners that the next election (early November) is drawing near, thus urging the board to take care of this issue as soon as possible.

Gatling responded by telling both Horton and Williams they were correct.

“We did say we were going to discuss all boards who receive stipends for their meetings,” Gatling recalled. “In the closed session, we discovered there were only four boards who receive those stipends and we were also informed of the amount of those stipends. That’s why this tabled item from last month was placed on today’s agenda.”

However, Gatling did add that if any board member felt as though they were not ready to act at last week’s meeting, “I don’t have a problem with that.”

Horton’s motion to table the issue died for a lack of a second.

Commission Vice Chairman Curtis Freeman stated he was not against the Board of Elections members receiving $50 per meeting (regularly scheduled meetings plus those requiring them to deal with absentee issues, recounts, protests or challenges).

“I do have some reservations about the $200 for Election Day,” Freeman said. “That’s going above and beyond what is typical.”

Horton interjected again that any change in the stipends for one entity would impact all.

“The tail shouldn’t wag the dog,” he stressed. “We have several boards that we pay the members. We said we would look at them all together, but we’re only looking at two of them today.”

Gatling suggested that all of the regular meetings of the county’s Board of Elections (to include those dealing with absentee issues, recounts, protests or challenges) should be paid at $50 per member. However, he suggested lowering the Board of Elections Chairman’s request for $200 for working on Election Day to $100 as well as committing to only one half ($50) of the $100 request for working the canvass.

Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer motioned for Gatling’s suggestions to be implemented. Freeman offered a second and the motion was approved 4-1, with Horton casting the lone “no” vote.

As for the stipends currently paid to members of the DSS Board, they range between $29 and $32 per meeting. County Attorney Chuck Revelle noted that the difference in the stipends was related to the distance board members are required to travel to Winton from other parts of the county.

In an Aug. 29 letter addressed to Gatling from Deborah D. Morrison, Chair of the Hertford County DSS Board, she asked for a $100 per meeting, per member stipend, which would include travel.

“With the exclusion of an annual half-day board retreat, this stipend will be inclusive of all meetings during the month, should there be any special called meetings,” Morrison wrote in her letter.

Freeman noted that the $100 per meeting request was, in his mind, “a big jump.”

“I take issue with that,” Freeman added. “My recommendation is $50 per meeting, per member, and that needs to include their annual board retreat. We need to be consistent.”

“I agree with $50 across the scale,” Horton said.

Freeman motioned to increase the per meeting stipends for DSS Board members to $50, to include their annual retreat.

Horton offered a second and the motion passed without objection.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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