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County supervisor slams decision to pay bonuses

by Larry S. Chowning

A decision by two Middlesex County supervisors to vote for approval of “longevity” bonuses for some employees of the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission (PDC) caused a heated discussion at a county board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

Pinetop District supervisor Fred Crittenden criticized board chairman Robert Crump of Saluda District and Jamaica District supervisor Wayne Jessie for voting to approve the bonuses. Crump and Jessie are the county representatives on the PDC.

The PDC budget, which included the longevity employee bonuses, was approved by an 8-7 vote of commission members.

Crittenden emphasized that no other employee in county government received a raise this year.

He reminded the board of the budget sacrifices the school system and others have made in the face of “hard economic times. We didn’t give any raises to the sheriff’s department. We didn’t give any raises to school personnel. We didn’t give any raises to the people who work and operate the whole county. Now, low and behold, we find out we are giving the PDC bonuses.”

“I have difficulty looking the school folks in the face and telling them the PDC got bonuses and [two] members of this board [of supervisors] voted for that action,” said Crittenden. 

In 2000, the PDC approved “longevity bonuses” where increases of $250 would be awarded annually after an employee had three years of service. The amount of individual bonuses cannot exceed $1,700. 

Jessie explained that in 2000 the PDC was having problems keeping good personnel. “They saw this (bonuses) as a way to encourage their employees to stay on the job.”

Jessie also noted that most of PDC’s funding comes from grants, and good grant writers are hard “to find and hard to keep.”

The PDC has about a $1 million budget. Six counties and three towns are members of the PDC and together they paid $35,000 in dues in 2009-10.

Middlesex and the other five counties will pay $5,000 each in 2009-10. Crump noted that previously the PDC had charged counties $10,000 each, but lowered that amount to $5,000 this year.

Crump obviously took offense with Crittenden’s sharp criticism, and questioned why Crittenden waited until a public meeting to talk to him about the matter.

“What I have difficulty with is that if you had a problem with me, you didn’t call me about this matter,” Crump told Crittenden.

Crittenden said he didn’t know about the bonuses until a recent PDC meeting.

Crump bluntly said that was not true. “You knew about it.” Crump told Crittenden.

“I did?” responded Crittenden.

“You most certainly did,” said Crump. “Marcia (Jones) called me a month ago about it and told me she had called you. I’m not going to be beat up [publicly] over this.”

Jones was at Tuesday’s meeting, but did not comment.

Crittenden countered, “If we decided in our budget, and it was unanimous, not to give raises to our employees, we should stick to it and not give money to others without giving it to our own.”

Crump said he seconded the motion to approve the budget with the longevity bonuses. However, when another PDC member from Gloucester asked to amend the motion not to include the longevity bonuses, Crump said he agreed to allow a vote on the amended motion.

“I held the second [to the motion], and it was my choice to allow her (Gloucester PDC member) to vote on eliminating the longevity bonus in my motion. I didn’t have to give her that second. Isn’t that right Mike?” Crump asked county attorney Mike Soberick.

Soberick indicated that Crump was correct.

“I allowed that to come to a vote on just that part (bonuses) of the budget, and it was defeated,” continued Crump. “We went on and approved the budget. And that’s all I’ve got to say about it!”

Crittenden responded, “Well, I think if our board members are going to be involved in giving raises to others, our entire board should be involved in the decision.”

“When you start putting a little more money into it (the PDC), then maybe you can have more say in it,” responded Crump.

“I’ve been on this board long enough to know that these grants are coming from tax dollars from somewhere,” said Crittenden. “It might not be from us, but it’s either coming from state or federal tax dollars.

“I’m opposed to giving bonuses in the economic situation that we are in,” said Crittenden. “I’m really disappointed that this has happened.”

Crump told Crittenden, “I’m disappointed that no one came to me. I’ve got a cell phone. If you had a complaint with me, you should have called me.”

In a raised voice, Crump said, “I gave her (the Gloucester PDC member) the right to vote on it. It was defeated and that should have been the end of it!”

posted 07.08.2009

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