A contract for a Crawford County election coordinator meant to assist with the remaining 2016 elections will be rewritten after it was found by justices of the peace to be in violation of current county ordinances.
During a Crawford County Personnel Committee meeting held Monday night, JPs determined that a contract between the Crawford County Election Commission and Tim Walker for services related to upcoming elections violated county regulations regarding contract pay and taxes rendered.
“I think our election commission is doing the best they can,” said JP Elaina Damante, “and we all recognize they need help. What we’re trying to do is figure out how to pay for that help.”
John Lyon, who was one of three election commissioners and served as commission chair, resigned in June. Commissioner Ernie Schimmelman suffered a stroke last month and resigned his position, leaving only Crawford County Election Commissioner Bill Taylor.
Lyon and Schimmelman represented the Republican Party of Crawford County, which is the majority party at this time, while Taylor continues to represent the Democratic Party.
One Republican seat on the commission has been filled by Bill Coleman. A second Republican commissioner must be appointed before a chair can be selected, Taylor said.
Crawford County’s election commission handles all polling for school, city and county elections.
Taylor and Walker co-wrote the contract for election services, Taylor said. The contract was signed July 11 and Walker begin providing services from that date forward, Taylor said.
Unfortunately, the contract has elements from both the county’s contract labor regulations and regular employment regulations.
And because Walker began working mid-July, he already has received a check from the county, which Crawford County Clerk Teresa Armer said had to be paid as a full-time employee with benefits because a time card for Walker was submitted with 80 hours.
In short, Walker was paid for an employee position that did not exist, as such positions must be created and approved by the Crawford County Quorum Court along with funding, and published for applications.
The election commission has money to pay for the contracted services, but it must be moved into a different fund to be applied to contract labor, Armer said.
In addition, because the contract sets a rate of $15,000 to be paid for election services for the remainder of the year, or $600 every week, that gives the contractor an hourly rate of $15. By county ordinance, contract labor can not receive more than $10 for an hourly rate.
“You, we, have the authority to hire someone,” JP Carrie Jernigan said. “We just went about it all wrong. We have to start all over. This is bad.”
To resolve the issue, Jernigan made a motion that the contract be rewritten with the assistance of Crawford County Attorney Chuck Baker, striking the rendering of taxes and setting the pay the $15,000 in five lump payments.
While Jernigan said the amount of payment was “too high,” the county should abide by the agreement.
Payments already made to the contractor will need to somehow be reimbursed and the money reallocated via the lump sum.
Jernigan’s motion passed in committee and will need to be approved by ordinance in quorum court and the money allocated for the contract.
Also during the personnel committee meeting, JPs approved a request by Crawford County Judge John Hall for three seasonal employees to help with paving projects through November.
Hall told JPs that he expected to have job trainees from the Western Arkansas Employment Development Agency to help with the projects at no expense to the county.
After flooding in December 2015 that caused Crawford County to be declared a disaster area by the state, the WAEDA workers were supposed to be paid with Federal Emergency Management Agency money, Hall said.
But Hall recently was informed that funding for the workers would be cut off Aug. 11, he said.
Hall also is filling two regular slots he already had open, he said. For all five slots, Hall is hiring WAEDA workers who have worked for the county road department for several years, he said.
All will make the same $10-per-hour wage they received from WAEDA, Hall said.