By Tony Farkas
GROVETON — Trinity County Commissioners’ Court on March 23 heard threats of lawsuits regarding decisions on pay raises.
County Clerk Shasta Bergman told the court that there is a pay disparity between the employees of female elected officials and that of male elected officials, and she, by submitting several requests for raises, was addressing the problem.
Of the four requests that were submitted, three were for Bergman’s employees; one for an additional $2.78 on a salary of $10.92 per hour, one for an additional $3.22 on the chief deputy’s salary of $11.20 per hour, and the last for an additional $1 on a salary of $10.50 per hour.
Bergman told the funds for the raises would be taken from her department’s Records Management account, and not from the general fund, which would not affect county income or tax dollars because the funds came from fees charged for record-keeping.
She also said those funds can only be used in her office, and mostly for salaries.
However, Commissioner Mike Loftin said during the budget season last year that the court decided there would be no raises, as the county needed to be frugal, despite being told by Bergman that the raises will not affect the county budget.
Commissioner Neal Smith said that the county attempted to look at all departments equally, and had the pay scales within pennies of each other.
“You can’t starve people out of a job,” Bergman said. “You are setting yourself up for trouble.”
Sheriff Woody Wallace said the county needed to be mindful of the legal ramifications of its decisions, saying also that he was “sick and tired” of his deputies having to work second jobs to feed their children.
“We need to look at this before we find ourselves in a class action lawsuit,” he said.
Loftin insisted that he understands the plight of the employees, but said the idea was to wait until this year’s budget season to determine what money was available; Bergman again said that the funds came from a different source than tax dollars.
Commissioner Steven Truss said that if the court approved the raises, then all departments will be seeking raises.
Commissioner Tommy Park made the motion to approve the raises, which had to be seconded by County Judge Doug Page. The end result, though, was that Smith, Loftin and Truss voted against the raises.
Bergman told commissioners then that she will present the raises in the same manner until they are approved, or they are handled through legal means.
In other business, the county:
- approved the appointment of Stacye Tullos as Trinity County Extension Agent-Ag and Natural Resources;
- proclaimed the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month;
- discussed billing from Groveton EMS regarding visits to inmates; and
- recognized the county’s constables for taking training regarding the state Open Meetings and Public Information acts.