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Meeting gets a bit testy

A routine discussion about updating the county’s employee handbook turned tense over hiring practices during Monday morning’s Lafayette County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Supervisor Kevin Frye was opposed to a change in the handbook regarding advertising for county positions. Currently, the handbook states the county will advertise for all vacant positions and the change states, “Lafayette County may advertise for vacant positions.”

Frye said the proposed policy change would make it discretionary upon the board whether a position would be advertised and by not advertising for all open county positions, it is not possible to find the most qualified candidate for the job.

“I’m very opposed to this change,” Frye said. “I think it leads to the accusation and maybe even the reality of cronyism.”

Board president Jeff Busby said the change was intended for when the county needed to hire within, such as promoting

an employee. Frye said that should not matter and believes all positions should be advertised in an attempt to find the most qualified candidate.

“I think you should advertise for it, take applications and if the most qualified person is already an employee of the county, then that’s who you should hire,” Frye said. “But how do you know that unless you give people the opportunity to apply for a job in their government that their taxpayer dollars pay for?”

New road manager

The issue apparently stems from the promotion of Joe Bynum as the new county road manager. According to Busby, Bynum has been with the county for about 15 years and was hired last week. The board did advertise for the road manager position when Jerry Haynie announced he was retiring.

“So if you’ve hired a guy that’s the No. 2 and he’s worked under that position for 15 years, you don’t know if he’s qualified?” Busby asked.

Frye said he did vote along with the rest of the board in promoting Bynum because he felt he was the most qualified. But he said that may not be the case in every instance.

Supervisor Mike Roberts said that the change simply gives the board discretion on whether or not to advertise a position is open. He said the change in policy came to light after Bynum’s hiring when officials realized the need to avoid the appearance of cronyism.

“When you have an employee that’s internal and deserves to be promoted, why would I waste any other qualified individuals’ time in the interview process when I know that the person we need to promote is already on board?”Roberts asked. “We put some good people through the interview process that had no chance to get the job. When you have a qualified employee who has dedicated their time and life to this county, it is my belief that they have the right, seniority (for us) to promote from within. And if we determine there is no such employee that already works for this county, then we have an option to go through an interview process.”

Heated words

Frye said if the board does not go through the interview process to find the best candidate for the position, “you can’t look your constituents in the face and tell them that with certainty.”

“You’re wrong Mr. Frye,” Roberts said. “I have no problem looking my constituents in the eye and saying ‘Hey bud, we hired the guy that was qualified.’”

“The issue, Mr. Roberts, when I’m looking at candidates for a job, I cannot tell who is the most qualified unless I interview and make that determination for myself,” Frye said.

“Then why did you put that man in the position at No. 2 to begin with?” asked Busby.

“I didn’t. I wasn’t on the board. And neither did any of you,” Frye said. “So we weren’t here. That’s my point.”

“I guess your point is why haven’t we got rid of him? He wasn’t qualified?” Busby said.

“I suggest you get to know the employees of Lafayette County,” Roberts said.

The motion to change the policy passed with Frye voting no.

Meanwhile, Busby introduced Bynum as the new county road manager earlier in the meeting.

“We appreciate the hard work you have done for the county in the last 15 years and we look forward working with you,” Busby said.

Bynum’s new position takes effect on July 1.