County administrator backs out of job

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 4, 2011

NATCHEZ — Adams County is without an administrator once again.

Paul Rosson, a Tennessean who accepted the job in early January, told Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell Thursday over the phone he has decided not to take the job after all.

“It’s very frustrating (news),” Grennell said.

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Rosson said he turned down the job because he was uncomfortable with the level of job security. He said since county administrators in the State of Mississippi can be fired without cause, he did not think he could accept the risk of working at the will of a political board.

Rosson said he felt the board was hiring him to be a leader who suggested solutions, not just someone who presented problems.

When taking charge of the budget, for instance, Rosson said he would likely have to make some controversial recommendations.

“And you know at anytime if you make any three (supervisors) very upset they can call a meeting and have you dismissed,” Rosson said.

“I don’t mind being in that position as long as I have just a little protection.”

Grennell said Rosson’s decision surprised him.

“He made several trips down (to Natchez) to secure an apartment, the sheriff’s department gave him a tour (of the county), he received a copy of budget to begin reviewing, and then boom, he decided not to come,” Grennell said.

Rosson also attended a legislative breakfast in Natchez and a midwinter conference for the Mississippi Association of Supervisors in Jackson with Grennell and Supervisors Henry Watts and S.E. “Spanky” Felter, both in January.

Grennell said Rosson’s decision boiled down to him wanting three months severance pay in the event of his termination, but Mississippi does not allow severance for that particular position.

“So it looks like we’re back to the drawing board,” Grennell said.

Rosson said in his discussions with the supervisors they explored the idea of pursuing local-private legislation that would allow the county administrator to enter a contract.

“I encourage them to go though with (the local private legislation) regardless . . . to make a more appealing position for future candidates,” Rosson said.

Rosson said hospital administrators and the school superintendent enter contracts, and he believes the administrator should too because he or she serves a wide variety of public services.

Rosson said his decision was not an easy one.

“I’ve been to Natchez over four times, and it’s a seven-hour drive.

“You have a wonderful community, and that’s why it was such a hard decision to make,” he said.

Rosson has said if he took the job as county administrator he would use centralization and consolidation to save money and produce a more efficiently run government.

Grennell said the board will determine at its Monday meeting whether the supervisors want to dip into the pool of applicants it has already established or start the search process over.

“It’s a little frustrating because we thought we had a good person coming in with Paul, and according to all indicators he was going to be good for the county,” Grennell said.

The board approved the hiring of Rosson of Lawrence County, Tenn., as county administrator for $75,000 per year with a 3-2 majority vote on Jan. 4.

Felter said at the Jan. 4 meeting he voted against hiring Rosson because the salary negotiated would be too high compared to the average income of Adams County residents.

Watts also voted against hiring Rosson because of the proposed salary, but he said he liked Rosson as a candidate.

Rosson included a draft of a proposed job contract along with a five-page strategic plan the board requested him to submit before making their decision.

Watts said at the Jan. 4 meeting he admired Rosson’s business sense in wanting to enter a contract.

Attorney Bobby Cox said at the meeting a state statute addresses the personnel policies of the administrator position, making a contract unnecessary.

The county’s first administrator, Charlie Brown, served in the position for 17 years and retired from the job in 2006. Cathy Walker was hired and filled the position from 2004 to March 2010, when she was terminated 12 days before her resignation from the position was final.

The position stayed open for approximately five months.

Joe Murray was hired in August as county administrator and resigned just shy of one month after being sworn in, citing that he did not see himself enjoying the job in the long run.

Chancery Clerk Tommy O’Beirne has acted as interim administrator without pay in addition to his clerical duties for more than four months.