Board takes up pay raise proposal too late for action

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County Board of Supervisors won’t be holding a public hearing on raising supervisors’ pay at its Sept. 8 meeting. In fact, supervisor pay raises are off the table for the remainder of this year.
    At the end of their last meeting, on Aug. 11, the supervisors reached a consensus during the Board Comments section of the meeting to hold a public hearing on raising supervisors’ pay by $200 a month. District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard made the suggestion during the Comments period.
    Friday, in a memo obtained by the Bedford Bulletin, County Attorney Carl Boggess informed the supervisors that the Code of Virginia gives them a window of between May 1 and June 30 during which they can act to raise their pay. This window has already passed for  this fiscal  year,  so they can’t act on pay raises at this time.
    The memo also stated that the supervisors’ action at the Aug. 11 meeting was not in accord with the supervisors bylaws governing what may be presented during the Board Comments period. The section of their bylaws Boggess’ memo cites states: “This time is generally used for individual Board members to share information with other members of the Board and public.  Items presented under this heading requiring action will be for a future meeting agenda or to request additional information from staff members.  No item presented under this heading shall be acted upon at the meeting at which the item is presented unless it is the unanimous consensus of the Board that the item be put on the floor for action.”
    The consensus to hold a public hearing was not unanimous. District 1 Supervisor Bill Thomasson voted against the motion.
    “How can we ask for a pay raise for ourselves?” he asked, after noting that county employees have not received pay raises and that the supervisors had voted to raise taxes. “I am not going to vote for it.”
    District 2 Supervisor Curry Martin also opposed raising supervisors’ pay, but said he supported holding a public hearing so county residents could offer their opinions.
    Pollard, in a phone interview, said she wasn’t aware of the May 1 — June 30 window when she suggested the public hearing.
    In his memo, Boggess stated that he had informed the supervisors of the window when they discussed pay raises during a board of supervisors retreat in January. Pollard, however, said she does not recall being told that they had a time frame within which to work.
    Boggess, as county attorney, serves as parliamentarian for board of supervisors meetings and Pollard criticized him for not informing them of that time frame when she suggested the public hearing.
    “It’s Carl’s responsibility to know what state code is,” she commented.
    Pollard also questioned whether their action violated the supervisors’ bylaws. She sees no difference between that action and the earlier action, under County Administrator Reports, when the supervisors voted to hire a new director of tourism to replace Sergei Troubetzkoy.
    According to Pollard, the supervisors reached a consensus to give themselves a pay raise during the January retreat. The money for pay raises was put in this year’s budget and Pollard said she thought that was all they had to do.
    Pollard said the first time she was aware that the pay raises did not happen was when she got her first supervisor paycheck at the beginning of the month and saw that her pay had not gone up. 
    Pollard said she had asked County Administrator Mark Reeter to place supervisor pay raises on the agenda. When she saw it wasn’t on the agenda, she brought the pay raises up during the Board Comments section of the meeting.