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Posted: August 18, 2012 4:24 p.m.

Chairman questioned over new position

Another disagreement over the power of the county chairman cropped up last week, when Commissioner Mort Ewing questioned a newly-created public works position posted online by Chairman Kathy Morgan.

At the Aug. 7 board of commissioners meeting, Ewing expressed concern that a new position - deputy director of roads and bridges - posted on the county's website wasn't approved by the board.

In response, Morgan said she created the position by combining two job positions, including the open position of assistant roads director. In addition, she said in an email Friday, Morgan said she interpreted the county's charter as giving her the authority to hire and fire all road department employees.

The position was pulled off the website Aug. 9.

At the Aug. 7 meeting, Ewing said the deputy director position had been created and posted without first being presented to the board or being addressed in the fiscal year 2013 budget.

The deputy director position was originally posted July 16 with an average annual salary range of $49,316 to $74,089. The position summary said the individual hired would work with the chairman and public works director to plan, organize, direct, manage and supervise day-to-day operations and work activities that involve the construction, maintenance, and repair of county roads, streets, bridges, sidewalks, storm sewers and related projects.

Morgan said at the Aug. 7 meeting that the assistant roads director position needed to be filled and she was trying to combine two jobs, but she would pull the position from the website and put back the previous position or leave it empty.

In her email to The News, Morgan said she only created the position to fill a void and she didn't think it required approval from the board.

"I ordered the job to be posted with changes to fill the vacant assistant roads department director [position]. I made changes to the job description to fill a void for professional services needed in public works," Morgan said. "These changes were made after asking our human resources director to pull the job descriptions from several counties our size and review their requirements for a similar position.

"I interpreted the charter to give the chairman the right to hire and fire all road department employees; however, Mr. Ewing interprets the charter differently. Therefore, when challenged, I pulled the posting. I will be posting the assistant roads department director as that position is vacant."

During a follow-up phone conversation with Morgan Friday afternoon, she said she did not change the requirements; she only added more description. She said she wanted to hire someone with a master's degree of business administration or public administration. She said the board has discussed hiring professionals for years, and Morgan didn't think it would be a problem.

"I was trying to do what the commissioners instructed me to do over the years. I felt like it was more in line with other counties," she said. "I never dreamed that what I did would be controversial."

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