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County salaries questioned

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Published:   |   Updated: March 7, 2013 at 04:17 PM

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BROOKSVILLE -

County Administrator Len Sossamon said he has been asked by county commissioners to look into possible salary adjustments now that the four new assistant administrators have expanded their duties and taken on more supervisory oversight of departments.

For example, the promotion of Chief Procurement Officer Russ Wetherington to assistant administrator in charge of general services means he now has supervisory authority over Director of Administrative Services Cheryl Marsden.

And Marsden makes $6,000 more than her boss, Wetherington.

Sossamon said that salary discrepancy may be considered unusual but there are situations like that throughout Florida.

"I'm not saying it's a perfect situation," he said.

Also under consideration are the raises given to the four men hired this week to take over the assistant administrator slots. The amount of those raises may be revisited.

Per county personnel policy, they were to receive at least a 5 percent salary hike because of their promotions.

Three of them: Ron Pianta, Brian Malmberg and George Zoettlein, received that amount.

Wetherington, because he was so far in back of the others in pay grade, received a 20 percent raise.

But Dukes said he will ask colleagues to consider making an exception to that policy in regards to people in management positions and leave it up to Sossamon's discretion as to what each should be paid.

Dukes said he believes there should be a salary cap, probably in the mid $90,000 range, for each manager.

Dukes said it is also time to re-examine the salary grades and positions of all managers and directors to make sure they are in line with the new management system in place with the four new administrators.

"I am going to use this opportunity to revisit positions, and it might mean adjusting job description titles, and that would mean a salary change," Dukes said.

County Commissioner Jim Adkins said he only voted for the pay raises this week because he knew he had the opportunity to bring it back before the board for more consideration.

If Dukes had not beaten him to it, Adkins said he would have called for it to be placed on the agenda.

Adkins said the county's salary schedule is "completely out of kilter" because of a past salary study commissioned by the former director of human resources.

"How we correct it without legal action is going to be an interesting situation," Adkins said.

County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved the new assistant administrators, who will assist Sossamon with department oversight, his long-range strategic plan and the framing of budgets.

With limited discussion Tuesday, commissioners also approved pay hikes totaling $29,000 for all four of the men, who will be expanding their workloads.

Budget Manager George Zoettlein's salary shot up 5 percent: from $97,739 to $102,606; Land Services Director Ron Pianta's salary also went up 5 percent: from $93,558 to $98,236.

Director of Transportation Services Brian Malmberg's 5 percent raise means he goes from $90,001 to $94,501.

Because he was only making $75,000, Chief Procurement Officer Russ Wetherington received a 20 percent pay raise and will now receive $90,000.

County Commissioner Nick Nicholson chose not to comment on the matter at this time.

County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said he has always believed that the county administrator should have more authority over hiring guidelines and pay ranges. Sossamon, he said, has been here long enough to be given the power to make adjustments necessary to run Hernando County government and not have his hands tied.

"They don't have to be sacrosanct," Russell said of personnel policies.

Also, Russell said it is too early to be discussing cutting any manager or director's pay before learning how the new administrative format affects work duties.

"We need to wait until everything shakes out before we start looking to cut salaries," Russell said.

County Commissioner Diane Rowden said she preferred to wait until the Feb 26 meeting before discussing the subject.

Marsden said she checked with other municipalities in Florida and found that it is not unusual for longer-tenured managers such as her to make more than their immediate supervisors.

Also, Marsden said she did not receive a salary increase when she took over as director of administrative services and took on oversight of four other departments.

County attorney Garth Coller said commissioners can change their policies and procedures, including the one that mandates a 5 percent salary hike for certain types of promotions, any time they wish.

But they cannot do it retroactively.

Because commissioners already set their assistant administrators' salaries, they would not be able to readjust them, he said.

"If you have policies and procedures you must abide by them," Coller said.


mbates@hernandotoday.com (352) 544-5290

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