Smithville Aldermen, concerned that they are too often being left in the dark by the administration about things going on in city government, want to be better informed.
During Monday night’s meeting, members of the council expressed their frustrations saying they have learned from the public or been asked about certain things of which they were unaware and should have known about pointing to two examples in particular. One involved the hiring of the mayor’s son, Tony Poss without board approval to work part time at the golf course and swimming pool last September after Poss surrendered his lease of the facilities in August. Shortly after Poss gave up the lease, the city entered into a one year contract with Riverwatch Golf & Resort to upgrade and maintain the golf course at a cost to the city of $74,115, most of which is coming from the city’s general fund surplus . Poss’ employment with the city ended Monday (March 5) before the issue was brought up Monday night. From September 1 to March 2, Poss’ gross amount of pay was $300 per week for a total of $8,100.
The other issue involves the city paying a part time employee at the animal shelter since January for working over 40 hours a week without board approval, which is a violation of the city’s agreement with the DeKalb Animal Coalition. Under that agreement, the city is to fund only one full time and one part time position at the animal shelter. Members of the Coalition addressed the mayor and aldermen last month asking that the city make the part time position full time but no action was taken by the board.
"I don't like coming up here and finding out stuff I should know before I get here that they (public) hear on the street. If they know it on the street, why don't we know it?" asked Alderman Danny Washer.
"Maybe we need to have ground rules on what we need to know. We all work full time jobs and I don't want to be called every time somebody wants to do something. I think the leaders we have hired should have discretion up to a certain point and maybe we need to decide where that line is," said Alderman Jason Murphy.
Alderman Josh Miller raised the issue about Tony Poss asking why he was hired.
“This has been something that has been brought to me and I think to others. I would like to know why we have been paying somebody to mow the golf course when we have it subbed out to Riverwatch?
“Who are we paying to mow the golf course?” asked Mayor Jimmy Poss
“I got numbers today and we have been paying somebody (Tony Poss) from September 1, 2017 through March 2, 2018 apparently to mow the golf course,” said Alderman Miller.
“No” responded Mayor Poss.
“So that’s not true?” asked Alderman Miller.
“Not to mow the golf course, no," replied Mayor Poss.
Alderman Miller then produced a city employee payroll data document for Tony Poss bearing the mayor’s signature with a hand written note that reads “part time seasonal salary $300 to mow golf course”.
After Aldermen Miller passed the document to him during the meeting, the mayor admitted that Tony was hired to do other things and not to mow the grass.
“We had a problem and what he (Tony) has done, he has taken care of that golf course with what Riverwatch wasn’t doing. He (Tony) has protected us from freezing up. The pool was running low with no water being put in it. It wasn’t being maintained by the city and that wasn’t Ken’s deal (Ken Lacy of Riverwatch). This is what Tony did. He took care of the city’s property. Now it wasn’t mowing. That’s an error there,” explained Mayor Poss.
Alderman Washer asked City Attorney Vester Parsley if the city can hire a new part time employee without board approval.
“I would really have to look and see. I wouldn’t want to make a comment either way right now,” answered Parsley.
“So is he (Tony) still part time?" asked Alderman Miller
“No, he is not anymore,” answered Mayor Poss
“When did that happen?”, asked Alderman Miller
“Today," replied Mayor Poss
Alderman Shawn Jacobs said he was under the impression that “Riverwatch was supposed to be taking care of everything over there (golf course). I thought that is why we hired them. That was quite a bit of expense to the city,” he said.
The things they (Riverwatch) weren’t going to do we were having Kevin Robinson’s department (Public Works) to do which were already city employees handling those issues,” added Alderman Gayla Hendrix.
"My suggestion is that any issue with an employee whether part time or full time it should come before the board (for approval) so at least we know who our employees are because we are ultimately liable for these people," Alderman Hendrix continued.
Concerning the part time employee at the animal shelter, Alderman Washer said the city is paying him more than it should be. “I averaged it out and from the time he hired in to the end of our last meeting (February) he was paid for 41.8 hours (per week)”.
Janice Plemmons Jackson, the city’s financial advisor, confirmed that the city has been paying more for that part time position than the aldermen agreed to pay. “What we budgeted for the animal (shelter) employees 'salaries was for one full time person, 40 hours and one part time person, 25 hours. That was set in contract with them (Animal Coalition) but we are exceeding the budget tremendously with what they are turning in and the city has been paying for extra things that are not in that contract. It is my opinion that with a contract you either stay with it or you have to modify it,” she said.
As for paying the part timer at the animal shelter, Jackson asked the aldermen what the city should do?
"Go back to what we agreed on. We can't keep spending money that we hadn't put out there (budgeted). If you do little by little its going to catch up to you and bite you," said Alderman Washer.