Century standoff over billing clerk
Council deadlocks on mayor’s suggestion; monthly bills have not been mailed for town
February 7, 2019
Century Mayor Henry Hawkins made a recommendation that the council approve moving town employee Toni Simmons up to billing clerk and increase her pay from $9.80 to $12 and then select an applicant from those that were interviewed for the billing clerk position to fill the front desk position.
Councilwoman Ann Brooks made a motion to not follow the recommendation, which was seconded by Councilman Ben Boutwell.
Councilman Luis Gomez and Councilwoman Sandra McMurray Jackson voted no, and Boutwell and Brooks voted yes, which resulted in a tie. Councilman James Smith was not present.
According to the town attorney, Matt Dannheiser, the council cannot interview or choose the ones they interview, but can only interview the candidate that the mayor has chosen.
“Let me remind the council that bills are due, the bills have not gone out this month and we need a billing clerk,” said Hawkins.
Brooks suggested that town employee Kristina Wood do the bills, which the mayor said he had not made the provision for.
Brooks asked CPA Robert Hudson's opinion on what to do.
“I think you all ought to hire the best person,” said Hudson. “Two people can be trained for that $4,000 fee to Harris Utilities, and I think you should send two people to be trained. Maybe somebody that is going to be here and whoever you decide to hire as billing clerk, that way you've got another trained person in case it happens when you don't have a trained person as far as the billing clerk. It is important to speedily do this, the monthly billing on water, sewer, gas and garbage is about $160,000 per month that needs to be done and finished so that money can get into the bank accounts. We run so close on so many funds. If that money is not coming in, it puts a strain on all the bank accounts that we have.”
Hudson said he thought Wood should be able to do the billing and if not, the software is usable enough to allow the bills to get out and get someone trained before the next billing cycle.
Gomez said the citizens of Century are not being served in the current situation and felt it is unnecessary to wait, especially with people like Hudson and Wood in place to catch mistakes.
“Let's weigh these options,” said Gomez. “You'd rather have nothing getting done or something getting done and refer to bylaws and rules, that we just don't see at these meetings.”
He suggested that if Dannheiser says you can hire within and promote, that's the best option.
Brooks clarified what Dannheiser said was that if there was a qualified person, you can hire from within, and that is the issue, whether or not there is a qualified person.
“We disagree as to if we have a qualified person to be the billing clerk,” said Brooks.
Gomez made the motion to hire Toni as billing clerk, which was seconded by Jackson.
Boutwell and Brooks voted no and Gomez and Jackson voted yes. Gomez then suggested to wait until Councilman James Smith comes back to vote to break the tie.
Jackson made a motion the council interview Simmons at the next council meeting, which was seconded by Boutwell and all voted yes.
Boutwell made a motion to have Wood do the billing this month, which was seconded by Jackson, and all voted yes.