Addition to highway department splits commission

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Oct. 15, the Cape Girardeau County Commission had a split vote on hiring additional help for the County Highway Department.

Associate Commissioner Jay Purcell, who voted against the measure, is still upset over what he said was a move that potentially violated the Missouri Open Meetings Law and which took place without advertising the position or doing a formal evaluation of the need.

Commissioners hired Stan Murray, most recently employed as manager of the Hubbell Creek Watershed project for the county soil and water conservation district, to work 24 hours a week evaluating the work of road contractors. Murray will also work 16 hours a week for the assessor's office and receive the benefits of a full-time employee.

The decision to hire Murray was not on the commission's posted agenda for the Oct. 15 meeting. No one else was considered for the job. Purcell said his issue is not with Murray, but with the way the hiring was handled.

"Any time the county commission hires someone to fill a position that would be considered management or professional in nature, we should post that position to assure that the best possible candidate with the best skill set is hired," he said.

Purcell blocked past attempts to add staff to watch over contractors' work. And while he went along with the hiring of Robb McClary as an assistant to the commission to help obtain easements, he said he is troubled by the process that resulted in that decision, too.

McClary has helped obtain 141 easements on 17 county roads to move the paving program forward.

Murray was hired into a slot left open by the retirement of a county road maintenance employee. But the maintenance job will have to be filled, Purcell said, and commissioners promised not to add staff with the proceeds of the sales tax for roads.

Associate Commissioner Larry Bock, who supported hiring Murray, said the money is from regular road funds, not sales tax money. And the hiring didn't need to be posted on the agenda or even approved by the commission, Bock said.

A job description for Murray is being developed, Bock said.

The decision was hashed out fairly and in open session, Bock said. "I don't want to get into a pissing match with Jay. He is entitled to his opinion."

-- Rudi Keller

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