County discusses administrator job

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NATCHEZ — Before voting at Monday’s board meeting to take a new set of applicants, the Adams County Board of Supervisors discussed how the former top candidate for the vacant county administrator position fell through the cracks.

Paul Rosson of Tennessee, the preferred candidate for the job, told supervisors last week he decided against taking the administrator job offer that he verbally accepted in January.

Rosson told The Democrat last week since county administrators in the State of Mississippi can be fired without cause and cannot enter into job contracts, he did not think he could accept the risk of working at the will of a political board.

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District 2 Supervisor Henry Watts and District 5 Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter said even though they initially voted against hiring Rosson because they believed the salary he demanded was too high, they were ready for him to sign on as administrator.

Watts said since Rosson was formerly elected to serve as county administrator in his home state, he should have been familiar with working for the “will of the people and the board.”

Watts said he spoke with Rosson at the Mississippi Association of Supervisors midwinter conference in January about county government and the new ideas Rosson was to bring to the table.

Watts said one thing that concerned him in his conversation with Rosson was Rosson’s plans to leave his family in Tennessee instead of relocating them to Natchez.

“Frankly it raised our eyebrows,” Watts said.

Watts said Rosson had also applied for three other jobs for which he had interviews in addition to the Adams County job.

District 3 Supervisor Thomas “Boo” Campbell said he was also surprised Rosson planned to keep his family in Tennessee.

“To tell the truth I thought he was going to bring his family,” Campbell said.

In response to an opinion column in Sunday’s issue of The Democrat, Watts defended his reasoning for voting against hiring Rosson based on the salary.

He said the supervisors advertised a negotiable $65,000 salary based on the suggestions of former administrators and other salaries in Mississippi.

“Negotiable” could have referred to either more or less money, Watts said. Watts said that is why he voted against paying Rosson $70,000. When Rosson negotiated a $75,000 offer after being offered $70,000, it was further removed from the advertised salary, Watts said.

“I disagreed on the money; I agreed (Rosson) was the man,” Watts said.

Felter said in his seven years on the board, he has never witnessed the supervisors conspire to fire someone, and he would not have participated in such actions.

“If the guy would have come here he would have been here,” Felter said.

Watts said the column in question suggested Rosson chose not to take the job because he did not have a unanimous support.

Watts said boards are often split on issues, but the board supports employees who do their job.

Former administrator Joe Murray and County Attorney Bobby Cox received support of the entire board after they demonstrated good work, Watts said.

Watts said both of those men were also initially hired with a 3-2 vote.

Cox has served as county attorney since he was initially hired in an interim capacity in January 2008. Murray resigned in September after serving one month in the position.

“This board almost always has a fight (resulting) in a 3-2 majority,” Campbell said.

“That’s why there is an odd number — to break a tie,” Board President Darryl Grennell said.

Campbell said he thinks it is fair that the county administrator works for the will and pleasure of the board just as the supervisors work for the will and pleasure of voters.

The board met in executive session to discuss the county administrator position and to discuss a lawsuit that has been filed against the supervisors.

When the board returned to open session, Grennell said the board voted during the closed session to advertise for county administrator applicants.

The advertisement will mirror most recent advertisement, including a $65,000 negotiable salary.

In other news from Monday’s meeting:

4 The board approved purchasing a $3,000 right-of-way for one-third of an acre in order to move part of Buckhurst Road over to prevent it from collapsing into a hole.

Purchasing the right of way and moving the road over would save the county money, District 1 Supervisor Mike Lazarus explained. Moving the road over would make the road safe but avoid paying for the perpetual maintenance of an Emergency Watershed Project.

Felter questioned where the $3,000 would come from.

He asked why a road in District 1 should receive priority over other roads and bridges that also need repair and take more traffic.

County Engineer Jim Marlow said different roads qualify for different types of grant funds, and each funding source has its own set of ranking criteria.

The board voted unanimously to purchase the right of way.

4 The board voted to accept quotes for the cost of concrete for its concrete pothole repair project.

4 The board unanimously adopted a resolution to commemorate the memory of the recently deceased Arella Bacon, who died Feb. 1.

Bacon was a community servant who made an impact by cleaning up garbage in part as the former coordinator of Keep Natchez-Adams County Beautiful.