JEFFERSON-Although his contract is not set to expire until December 2017, Ashe County Manager Sam Yearick received a two-year extension from county commissioners Monday morning.
Following closed session, the board voted 3-2 to extend his contract and increase his severance from one to two years in the event a future board decides to terminate his employment.
Commissioners William Sands and Larry Rhodes voted against the measure. The move comes a month before county voters will decide who will fill three commission seats, those held by Larry Rhodes, Gary Roark and the departing Brien Richardson.
Currently, Yearick makes a little more than $85,000 per year, once the staff’s cost of living increase is included. This slight bump in salary was included in the county’s recently approved county budget for all county employees.
As it stands now, if Yearick were to lose his job, he would receive $170,000 in severance instead of the original $85,000 that was part of his initial terms, said Rhodes.
Additionally, the commissioners voted to oblige Yearick’s request in giving him a monthly car allowance for vehicle to use as his own. As a result, Yearick will turn in the county car he currently drives. He will be given $600 per month for a vehicle. This will be added to his salary.
Rhodes said he voted against the extension on principle alone and didn’t see it as a political maneuver by the board’s majority to preserve Yearick’s job should a future – possibly left leaning board – decide to part ways with him.
County managers regularly work at the pleasure of the board of county commissioners. Previous county managers in Ashe County have learned this lesson, too, as both Dan McMillan and Dr. Patricia Mitchell were fired under murky circumstances. McMillan was let go in 2011 and Mitchell, Yearick’s predecessor, in 2013.
With the exception of some major change, Rhodes said he would always vote against renewing a contract before its expiration was in sight.
“In all of my years in business experience, you don’t renegotiate contract unless it is written in there (to do so) or until it expires,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes voted last month against extending Ashe Medic’s contract with the county on similar reasoning.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.