JEFFERSON-Could a sitting member of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners be hired as the county’s next maintenance director?
Ashe County Manager Sam Yearick said he’s yet to make a decision on the job posting, though multiple county commissioners said Friday a member of the elected board has expressed interest in the position.
“This is nothing official but there’s a strong indicator that (one county commissioner) has thrown their hat in the ring,” Ashe County Commissioner Larry Rhodes said. “Personally I have a real concern that any commissioner, myself included, could perform as both an elected official and county employee.”
The new hire would replace former Director of Maintenance Barry Woodie, who recently retired, and will be responsible for tasks including the cleaning, repair and upkeep of county properties.
Rhodes said Yearick is responsible for interviewing, hiring and outlining the job responsibilities for county department heads.
Should a commissioner be hired for the job, Rhodes said he worries the relationship between Yearick and the official in question could become blurred. Yearick serves at the pleasure of the board of commissioners, but county department heads answer to Yearick, Rhodes said.
“My thinking on it, it would be tough for that commissioner to be both a boss and employee at the same time,” Rhodes said. “You’d be wearing two hats, in essence, and that could be a problem.”
Rhodes said the hiring decision should be left fully to Yearick, but said in his 18 years as a commissioner, he cannot remember a board member who served as both a commissioner and county employee.
“I can’t speak for anybody else, but if it were me and I wanted to apply for a job opening with the county I’d resign from the board and then take the job,” Rhodes said. “But that’s just me.”
Board of Commissioners Chairman Will Sands said he’s heard that a commissioner had applied for the position but said Yearick has the full authority to make the final decision on the hire. For years, Sands juggled the responsibility of serving as a county commissioner and a volunteer detective with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office and said the arrangement rarely posed problems.
“I could vote on the sheriff’s office’s budget for instance, because I didn’t draw a salary so that was never an issue,” Sands said. “But I did excuse myself on one occasion on voting for a promotion for a fellow detective who had an office right next to mine.”
And Commissioner Paula Perry said she’d checked with the North Carolina School of Government to see if a commissioner serving as a county department head would pose any legal problems.
“There’s nothing that says that someone can’t do it,” Perry said. “They just couldn’t vote on something related to their budget, for instance.”
Commissioner Jeff Rose declined to comment on the matter when reached by phone Friday and calls and text messages left for Commissioner Gary Roark went unreturned at presstime.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-846-7164.