By Ray King
At a brief meeting of the Jefferson County Quorum Court Monday, the justices of the peace approved a request to fill a vacant slot in the County Clerk’s Office, an ordinance establishing procedures for conducting meetings, and appropriating funds to the County Clerk that were received from the Coronavirus Relief Grant Fund.
What they did not do was to vote on approving an amended ordinance transferring slots, positions, increases and raises in the tax collector’s 2021 budget and amended back to the budget from 2020.
During committee meetings last week, some justices of the peace expressed confusion about the ordinance, particularly who would be receiving a salary increase to match the salary paid to chief deputies in the offices of the other elected officials. Tax Collector Tony Washington was going to bring the proposal back during a special called meeting prior to the regular meeting Tuesday but that didn’t happen, and County Judge Gerald Robinson said the issue would be brought up during committee meetings in February.
Reginald Johnson, who was elected to District 3 of the Quorum Court was attending a meeting for the second time and was asked afterword for his impressions and what he hoped to bring to the county’s legislative body.
Johnson replaces Tina Butler, who was appointed in 20019 after former JP Delton Wright resigned. Under state law, Butler could not run for the office.
Also Monday, Samella Thomas, who wrote a letter complaining of unfair practice and discrimination in pay in the Jefferson County Tax Collector’s Office was allowed to address the justices. Thomas said she had ben hired on March 1, 2008 as a deputy tax collector and is still in the same position and receiving the lowest salary of anyone in the office.
Thomas went on to say that there were four other deputy tax collectors in the same position and doing the similar work and three of the four were hired between five and seven years after she was. She said the four are paid $2,000 to $4,000 less than she is.
After Thomas spoke, Robinson told her that in order for the Quorum Court to take action, they have to have an ordinance from the tax collector making changes, and no ordinance has been presented.
“The Quorum Court can’t run his office,” Robinson said.