Recorder of Deeds Sharon Birkman said she disapproves of statements Franklin County Clerk Debbie Door made in a recent Missourian news story.
The story dealt with employee pay and showed that some smaller counties pay their employees more than Franklin County pays its workers.
Door’s statements in the article made it sound as if Birkman’s office was “doing something bad,” Birkman said.
Door said she never intended her comments to reflect negatively on Birkman’s office or any other county official.
In the article, Door said she thinks it is inappropriate for some county offices to get raises while other departments are not given increases.
Door said the statements she made in the article pertained to her office not other departments.
Moreover, Door noted that the The Missourian contacted her about the story. It was not as if she called the newspaper to complain, she said.
When the county commission approved the budget in January, the recorder of deeds office and the assessor’s office were able to give pay raises with money left over from leaving positions vacant.
It appears not everyone plays by the same rules when only certain offices get raises, Door said in the article.
Birkman said leaving the positions vacant and using some of that money to give raises actually saved taxpayer money.
“I’m saving two full-time people’s salary plus benefits,” Birkman said. “I honestly really thought I was doing something good for the county. I’ve always been very conservative.”
It made sense that the employees who were remaining would get raises since they would pick up the extra workload, Birkman said.
Meanwhile, Birkman said it seems to be getting to the point where there is a lot of animosity between various county department heads.
She said she is not sure what may be causing it, adding that she has always tried to get along with the different departments. But when there are news articles, such as the one she took issue with, it can cause animosity, she said.
“I think the commission should try to treat all of us (elected officials) the same,” Birkman said.
The county commission in the past has favored some elected officials over other elected officials, Birkman said. She said she is not talking so much about the current commissioners.
“I don’t think they (current commissioners) do it as much,” she said.
She would not say specifically which elected officials have been favored by the commission.
The Missourian’s story found that in many cases Cass and Buchanan counties, which are both less-populated than Franklin County, pay their employees more.
“To me, there’s something kind of wrong with that,” Birkman said. “I don’t think smaller counties should be paying more than a bigger county.”
The Franklin County commissioners seem to find money for other things but not for raises, she said. County employee morale is low, but she has seen it worse, Birkman said.
She added that she thinks the county’s employees believe they are underpaid.
“I’m talking about the whole county, not just my employees,” Birkman said.
The commissioners have not kept up with giving employees cost-of-living increases, Birkman said.
First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said revenue has been lacking to give employee raises. The county is still suffering from the economic crash, he added.
Brinker said he is glad that the county has been able to avoid layoffs.
Employees should at least get a cost-of-living raise each year, Birkman said.
“I can’t believe that they (commissioners) can’t find something,” Birkman said. “Like I say, the most important asset is the employees. If you don’t have them, you don’t have a county.”
The county has not given an across-the-board pay raise since 2008.
Asked if she thinks the county commissioners have tried to find the money to give raises, Birkman said, “Maybe they have not devoted enough time on it.”
But Brinker said commissioners have looked seriously at pay issues. Employee pay has been one of numerous priorities for the commissioners, and they will continue to look at the issue, he said.
The county is also trying to keep infrastructure and services at a good level while maintaining a balanced budget, Brinker said.
Birkman said she thinks the county commissioners do a good job and have a “tremendous responsibility” when it comes to budgeting.
County commissioners have discussed hiring a firm to do a pay study, but it appears it won’t happen at this time. Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz has said there is no reason to do a pay study if there is no money to give raises.