UPDATE: Please note that the following entry is based off the recommendations of the finance department. After it was posted, The good Trustee John Duncan III sent me a message, noting as such. He said the office has yet to discuss it with him. "I am writing a check for $6,000. Everyone is expected to return both payments," Duncan said.
Although pay day for county employees is this Friday, the folks over in the Trustee's Office won't begin paying back their interest free loans (I mean, bonuses they received two years in a row for not completing a government-related course) until early February.
In the meantime, there is one dude who got “only” $3,000 in coin in 2010 (and who also didn't complete the class)who is no longer working in the office so he won’t be paying back jack. I mean John. Blood from a turnip and all that.
As for the rest who are still employed? All but one of them cashed $6,000 in “incentive” checks (that's two checks each). So, according to the good Trustee, they’ll pay all that back. Right?
No. They won’t. Not really.
Most will pay back half, or $3,000 in which the county’s payroll department will take a little from each check.
Then, the employees will complete the course work this spring and forgo their next $3,000 payment that they are allowed to get next fiscal year. (Please note that this free money is not mandated.)
This proposal – pay back half and not get a bonus next year – sort of makes sense and it doesn’t, I suppose. Because, let’s face it – once they complete the coursework – they’re going to keep getting those checks forever.
So, there’s no point in making the workers pay back $6,000, just to hand them back another $3,000.
Of course it would have made a whole heck of a lot more sense to have the employees graduate from the program first and then pay them. But, the Trustee’s Office feels that state guidelines only “recommend” that the employees finish first before getting paid.
“A misconception that has arisen since this issue was brought to the public's attention is the scope of the State statute, which is nothing more than a recommendation,” Trustee John Duncan III wrote to the News Sentinel.
(Please note also that the Knox County Trustee’s Office appears to be the only governmental entity in the entire state that actually believes this.)
I suppose the next time I get clocked doing 90 miles per hour in a school zone, I’m going to tell the cop that the speed limit is nothing more than a recommendation.
Commissioner Smith vs. Trustee's Office
In other related Trustee Office news, the whole interest free loan/bonus/incentive issue was moot on Monday during the County Commission’s work session.
Commissioner Rrrrrr. Larry Smith (inside joke – thanks Scott McNutt) asked the commission to hold off discussion until next Monday.
In a move often imitated by the county’s Trustee, Smith gave conflicting reasons for the delay. On the dais, he told fellow commissioners that he wanted the finance department or human resources (I don’t remember which one at this point) to provide him with a list of everyone who received a check and for how much.
After the meeting, Smith told Channel 10 reporter Hillary I don’t remember her last name that he held off because next Monday the good folks from CTAS will talk to commissioners about the education program. (CTAS administers the program that officials are supposed to complete in order to get that good money.)
And that’s about the time I said: “Hey Larry, got a question.”
Smith: “Yeah, buddy?”
Me: “Can you talk about the conversation you had with Congressman Duncan. I heard John Duncan’s (as in Trustee John Duncan III) dad called you and a few commissioners. He didn’t put the fear of God in you, now did he?
Smith: (Big smile)
He then looks at Hillary and says: “Do you play softball?”
I’m not kidding.
Thanks to Dan Andrews for reminding me that this even happened.