Contract Approved for New Franklin Co. Manager

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

Franklin County Commissioners officially put a contract offer for new County Manager John Phillips in place, more than a month after he was hired.

Last month, at the direction of Franklin County Commission Chair Thomas Bridges, the board set up a review team, consisting of Bridges, commissioner Jeff Jacques, and Phillips to come up with a contract.

Bridges says copies of the contract were then sent to all of the commissioners for their review.

Then, at its regular meeting Monday night, the Franklin County Commission approved the three-year contract 4-1.

However, Commissioner Clint Harper had some questions before the vote.

Harper had previously opposed the board’s decision not to go through a search process and advertise for a new county manager.

Monday, Harper referred to the contract and the process used to develop it was seriously flawed.

Harper pointed first to a clause in the contract that gives Phillips a larger retirement contribution to his 401K than the FranklinCounty employees get.

“That shows you how ill-conceived this was because under the $5,000 retirement contribution, he’s under the old system and we can’t do that. This is not ready for a vote,” Harper said. “While the other employees get 2% for their retirement contribution, we’re offering (Phillips) 5.2%.” 

However, Commissioner Jeff Jacques said that amount was pre-determined.

Jacques said all of the commissioners had a chance to voice their opinions on any part of the proposed contract over the past several weeks.

“As previously stated, I would have much rather had an executive session where we were all able to sit down together and discuss that, but that was not available to us,” Jacques said. “We looked for comments for the last weeks and for questions as related to this draft.” 

Harper persisted though, also questioning another clause in the contract that makes Phillips, the former county engineer, both the county engineer and the county manager for Franklin County.

Harper noted the contract gives Phillips the option to go back to being the county engineer after three years should the county manager part of his contract not be renewed.

“But that’s not what it says in the contract,” Harper interrupted. “It says, ‘return to county engineer position at the county engineer salary at the end of three years if either party decides not to renew the contract.’ I want clarification because what I’m understanding is are we going to hold the county engineer’s position for three years or are we going to hire a new engineer?”

Jacques said the clause gives Franklin County a two-for-one deal for the next three years by making Phillips both the county manager and county  engineer.

““If he were to choose to go back into that position, we need a county engineer in that position,” Jacques said. “But it would result in a savings of somewhere around $150,000 to $200,000 a year.”

Harper and Jacques then both asked for Franklin County Attorney Bubba Samuels to review the contract and then put it in writing for Phillips’ signature.

The board then voted to pass the contract as proposed.