Sheriff Guffey secures bond, new fiscal court meets

Posted January 7, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Clinton County Fiscal Court, meeting for the first time in 2015 with a new judge/executive and one new magistrate, dealt with county employee hiring and rehiring and the sheriff’s revenue bond issue on Monday morning, January 5.

During the meeting it was acknowledged that Clinton County Sheriff Jim Guffey had been successful in securing the necessary bonding insurance that was needed for him to assume the duties of the office.

Guffey was in his office on Monday morning, along with his new staff, and appeared ready to begin serving in that capacity.

“Tell everyone that I’m good and ready to go,” Guffey told one reporter with the Clinton County News in his office that morning.

The special fiscal court meeting saw all members present as well as several spectators.

Prior to official business being conducted, Albany Mayor Nicky Smith offered his and the City of Albany’s pledge of support to the new judge and county government.

The court members first reviewed a listing of county employees by name, position and pay rate for the coming year.

Finance Officer Tuesday Davis then read aloud each of the names, positions and pay rates of both existing and new county employees, which was eventually voted on and approved by the court, with a couple of magistrates–Ricky Craig and Patty Guinn–abstaining on some of the hires due to being related to some of the individuals.

Four new employees were on the list, including Penny Jo Stearns, administrative assistant in the judge’s office; Joy Armstrong, who was appointed Deputy Judge; and Ronald McGill and Jonathan Branham, both deputy jailers.

The court approved the deputy judge appointment within the hiring of new employees. As with past deputy judge’s, she will receive $12 per hour as secretary and $5,000 per year for the position of deputy judge/executive.

Those individuals hired included EMS employees (EMTs, paramedics and dispatchers), road department employees, custodial workers, office staff and jail employees, including deputy jailers and cooks.

There will be few changes in the courthouse staff, as Virginia Conner will remain Occupational Tax Administrator, Tuesday Davis will remain as Finance Officer and Lyle Norris will continue to receive a set annual salary as the county’s Solid Waste Coordinator.

During the hiring process, there was some confusion and a couple of times motions on pay scales for certain employees were rescinded and re-voted on.

Judge Armstrong recommended that current road foreman Jim Pennycuff receive a rate of pay from $13.50 to $16.50 per hour until he leaves the position in mid-January and further that the incoming road foreman, Michael Craig, be hired at the $16.50 per hour rate.

Magistrate Ricky Craig said he had no problem with hiring (Michael) Craig for the position, but not at $3 more than the current rate.

Later, Magistrate Hershell Key made a motion to hire Craig as road foremen at $16.50 per hour, but the motion was later rescinded.

During discussion on the issue, Magistrate Mickey Riddle said the county didn’t have the money to pay $16.50 per hour for the position. Judge Armstrong disagreed and said he had talked with other county officials and road foremans in most counties receive much higher hourly rates than what Clinton County pays. He also questioned County Treasurer Dallas Sidwell about the money issue with Sidwell saying the county did have money in the road department.

Some magistrates, however, indicated using the road money for salaries would be like “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Eventually, Key made a motion to pay Pennycuff $16.50 per hour, with the motion failing 4-2 with Key and Magistrate Johnny Russell voting yes and Magistrates Riddle, Craig, Guinn and Terry Buster voting no, mostly citing the idea the county couldn’t afford to pay the extra money for the road foreman position.

A motion was then made to set the road foreman pay at the current $13.50 rate which passed.

The court then took up the issue of the sheriff’s revenue bond.

Judge Armstrong noted that the bonding issues had been going on for some time and that back in 1994, the bond was raised from $100,000 to $1 million. He then asked the court to consider lowering the bond for sheriff Jim Guffey from $1 million to $500,000. Previous bonding year amounts was around $6,700 but he said at the $1 million amount, it would cost $25,000. By cutting the bond in half, it would cost “$12,500 or less,” he continued.

Magistrate Riddle, in noting the sheriff’s office handled about $3 million per year, asked about the difference in the amounts, saying the county would be liable if something happened and asked, “Why would you risk it?”

Armstrong, noting he was looking at the situation from a financial standpoint in the difference between $12,500 and $25,000, said that the sheriff’s office would be making daily deposits and it would be unlikely they would handle more than $50,000 in any given day, plus all checks require two signatures. He said he really didn’t see much risk.

Following a brief discussion, Magistrate Key moved to put the matter up for a vote, but that motion was also later rescinded following some confusion on the motion’s intent.

Magistrate Buster then made the motion to lower the bond from $1 million to $500,000, which was seconded by Magistrate Russell but failed on a 4-2 vote with Magistrates Riddle, Craig, Guinn and Key voting no, meaning the bond will stay at $1 million at a cost of $25,000.

Some magistrates voted no because of what they believe may be liability issues and both magistrates Craig and Guinn told Sheriff Guffey that it was nothing personal against him by not voting to lower the bond but said they wouldn’t vote to lower it for anyone.

With no other items of business on the agenda, the call meeting was adjourned after about 50 minutes.

The first regular meeting of Clinton Fiscal Court for this year is scheduled for next Thursday, January 15 at 5 p.m. and is open to the general public.


I swear . . .

There was a lot of swearing going on last week in the Clinton County Circuit Courtroom, but in this case, it was of a positive nature. Elected officials who will be serving new office terms for both the city of Albany as well as Clinton County were officially sworn in during separate oaths that were administered last Tuesday morning.

Above, Clinton County’s top government official, County Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong, right, listens as the oath to his office is administered by Clinton District Judge James M. “Mike” Lawson, left. Clinton Circuit Judge David L. Williams, who administered several other oaths to officials Tuesday, is watching from behind the podium above center.

Several photos from last week’s swearing-in event can be found this week on pages 2 and 3.