After less than one year of service, the Harrison County Fiscal Court has voted not to renew the Economic Development Authority director contract.
It was like watching a tennis match as opinions were served back and forth between magistrates on the issue of EDA director Darlene Bussell’s upcoming contract extension.
The alleged inability for the director to perform her job in a professional way as well as her “demand” for a nearly 38 percent pay increase, setting her salary at $58,000 per year plus benefits was raised as an issue of concern.
“Several people are not willing to work with her due to personality conflicts and I think it’s important for the person to be flexible in her work,” said magistrate Missy Lutz. “I am also still unclear as to what she has accomplished on her own that was not already set in motion before she came.”
Lutz also raised the issue that Bussell was hired in a less -than-normal-manner when the job she currently holds was not advertised by the county.
“I think my issue is does she have support from the chairman of the EDA,” said magistrate Larry Wells. “It is my understanding that she does not and many board members are unhappy with her as well.”
However, not all magistrates were quick to dismiss Bussell.
“I have been on this court for some time now,” said magistrate William Fritz. “I believe she is helping and I am seeing more done than I did with the past two directors we had combined.”
Despite the advice of County Judge-Executive Alex Barnett to take no action until issues were further looked at, a call for vote to not renew Bussell’s contract was made by Lutz and seconded by magistrate Frank Henson.
Motion passed with Lutz, Henson, Paula Taylor and Larry Wells voting to not renew Bussell’s contract.
Magistrates Fritz, Jeff Brunker and Bradley Copes opposed the motion. Magistrate Brad Marshall was not present.
Court members added that they are not opposed to funding a director position at a later time.
A second personnel issue was brought before the court during the Parks and Recreation committee report.
“As some of you might have heard, our director, Brad Steele, gave his intent of resignation this morning,” explained Lutz. “I think there was a majority of good feelings toward him but there was a conflict between him and the deputy director.”
Lutz informed the court that Jim Roberts would serve as the interim director until a new person could be hired by the Parks and Recreation committee.
Also discussed was the need to appoint a board member to the Harrison County Fire Protection District Board.
“I still do not think we need to make any plans until we know who the chief is going to be,” said Wells. “It is my understanding that most of the equipment has been taken out of the Berry firehouse and moved to the city where most of the responders come from.”
Wells included that Berry and northern parts of the county should have someone on the board to better see to the needs of the citizens.
Barnett suggested that until the new chief is named, Mark Patrick would continue to serve as a county-appointed board member until the county chooses to appoint a new one.
Finally, it was announced during the personnel committee report that the jailer’s salary would be reduced from over $52,000 per year to $39,500 per year ending with current jailer Larry Turner’s term.