Stoddard County officials at odds over bonuses
Sunday, December 30, 2012
BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- Stoddard County Treasurer/Collector Carla Knowles Moore told the Stoddard County Commission she would not sign checks written by Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver to provide Christmas bonuses of $1,000 for each of his employees.
At Thursday's commission meeting, Moore cited conflicting opinions from state agencies about the constitutionality of the bonuses.
Moore said if Oliver contests her decision, she wants the commission to retain an attorney to represent the treasurer's office. She said it would be up to a court to sort through conflicting opinions and issue a decision.
Oliver has appeared twice in recent weeks before the commission about the matter. He said the money would come from a discretionary fund in the prosecuting attorney's office. Presiding Commissioner Greg Mathis and Commissioner Frank Sifford refused to sign vouchers submitted by Oliver for the bonuses.
Oliver was asked to meet with commissioners and other county elected officials Dec. 17. He did so and defended his decision to provide the bonuses to his employees.
He said he did not need the approval of the commission, and cited Missouri Revised Statutes, Section 56.312, which states: "No prior approval of the expenditures from this fund shall be required by the governing body of the county ... nor shall any prior audit or encumbrance of the fund be required before any expenditure is made by the prosecuting attorney from this fund. This fund may be audited by the state auditor's office or the appropriate auditing agency."
Money collected under the discretionary funding is deposited by the county treasurer into a separate interest-bearing fund. As such, checks issued from the account require the county treasurer's signature.
Moore said the state auditor provided her an opinion that granting extra compensation would be contrary to Missouri's Constitution.
She said the Missouri Association of Counties was contacted and the group was of the opinion Oliver could use the discretionary funding for such a purpose.
A neighboring county used discretionary funds to provide a one-time payment to its employees. The payment was the subject of a management advisory report by the state auditor.
The report stated, "The county made one-time payments in lieu of permanent cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to employees and elected officials which may be in conflict with the Missouri Constitution ... the payments were not based on additional duties performed or performance appraisals. In addition, the payments were not considered raises or added to the base compensation of employees."