This morning, the Mobile County Personnel Board elected not to approve a request from the Mobile County Commission adjusting the salary schedule to allow for the 59-cent hourly raise for employees passed Friday in its 2015 budget.

No votes were cast because a motion was never made, but a provision in the request from the commission allowed the pay raise to revert back to a series of 2.5 percent “across the board” salary increases scheduled to take effect in October and April.

Before a motion to vote on the salary schedule adjustment was proposed, Personnel Board member Irene W. Ware asked if the board could discuss the issue in private. However, other members of the board informed her that would be a violation of Alabama Open Meetings law.

The “no vote” was considered to be a small victory by the more than 30 employees from the Mobile County Sherriff’s Office that attended the meeting to urge the personnel board not to approve a raise some called “pennies” and “a slap in the face.”

“For 25 years, it’s been that the personnel board has catered to the appointing authorities and we, them employees, have been left to get what they want us to have,” Sgt. Phillip Mayo said. “All these economic developments that were promised to bring in all this money, and we’ve not seen a raise. If you don’t have the money to fund your employees, why should you go out and spend millions to obtain a soccer field when you have no guarantee it will prove fruitful?”

Mayo was referring to the proposed county soccer complex project that’s been a subject of debate with both the Mobile County Commission and the Mobile City Council in recent months.

Last week, the council entertained a request from Commission President Connie Hudson and agreed to chip in $1.5 million to the project from park improvement funds.

Though no final cost estimate has been released, the county has already committed $18,000 to develop a master plan and budget for the project. An additional $70,000 has also been allocated to prepare the property for the sale and to perform environmental services on the site.

That doesn’t include the potential $36,000 purchasing option the county has agreed to – an agreement that reserves the county the option of buying on the $2.9 million piece of the property the complex is slated to sit on.
When the raises were first discussed, Finance Director Michelle Herman said the two 2.5 percent raises would cost the county around $2.3 million annually, a figure County Administrator John Paffenbach confirmed during the personnel board meeting today.

“This year when we were preparing the budget, the Commission made its goal to retain starting salary employees and to try and find a way to help those at the bottom of the pay scale,” Paffenbach said. “(The 59-cent hourly raise) would benefit entry level workers and the lowest paid workers by a greater percentage than the 2.5 percent, and percentage wise it helped those at the bottom the most.”

Before the proposed pay raise failed to pass, employees like MCSO Captain Carlos Thompson expressed concern that members of the personnel board might have felt pressured by their “appoint authorities.”

The members of the personnel board are appointed by a 20-member supervisory committee comprised of circuit, district and probate judges, several county administrators and the mayors of the nine municipalities whose employees are regulated by the personnel board in addition to other representatives of professional organizations.

Thompson and others went on to say the low raise was only compounding the problems employees are already having with the rising cost of the county’s health insurance plan.

“We’re paying 100 percent for prescription medication and for me, because my wife is diabetic, that’s over $1,300 a month out of my pocket,” Thompson said. “What do I tell a deputy who’s been on seven years without a raise, who has a family and makes considerable less than I do?”

Thompson said he was one of 600 employees that filed a grievance with both the Personnel Board and the Commission over the new Local Government Health Insurance Plan last month. He said the County Commission hasn’t responded to the grievance because “they don’t have an idea on how alleviate what they’ve created.”

To back up those claims, MCSO employees presented reporters with copies of a receipt from Medicap Pharmacy in Spanish Fort for $1,100.13 prescription costs paid by a county employee whose name was redacted.

Lt. Richard Cayton, also with the MSCO, told reporters after the meeting the proper steps were followed in the grievance process and said if a response is not received, the employees would take the issue to court.