County accepts $8,566 payment to former employee

A large payment to a former county employee caused the commissioners to question the current policy.

At the county’s budget and finance meeting on Thursday night, commissioners discussed the payment former assistant county executive Lauren Hennessee Sweeton will receive as a result of her unpaid PTO hours. The county must pay him $8,566.

“That’s $8,566 for the county executive’s budget. This falls under Assistant 103 plus social security and pension benefits. Lauren, before leaving, how many hours of clearing time did Justin have? commissioner Scott Rubley asked.

“It had more than 200. It’s a total of 305 hours of power take-off that had to be spent,” replies Justin Cotten, director of the finance department.

“Which amounts to $8,566 that we don’t have in the county executive’s budget, so it would be a general fund transfer. It’s something we have no choice, we have to do it,” Rubley said.

Commissioner Carl D. Bouldin asked if there was a way to prevent this in the future.

“In the future, can this be cleaned every year?” Bouldin asked.

“If the county wanted to create this policy, yes. It is currently not county policy to do so, but I will say it will be an expensive undertaking to undertake at this point,” Cotten said.

He explained that most positions don’t require as much overtime as county executive administrative assistant. Cotten says the legal limit is 240 hours.

“So if we cleaned it up, it would actually give them more hours in the end?” Bouldin asked.

“Yes,” Cotten said. “To end this specific issue without a change in county-wide policy, all we would need to do is establish a line item to cover payment for compensation time up front.”

Paying the $8,566 is the only option unless the county wants to keep the position vacant.

“The alternative comes down to leaving the position open and empty until we earn that time, or doing that and spending money in the budget to cover it,” Cotten said.

The committee unanimously approved the payment.