CAIRO — Grady County commissioners have voted to approve a new contract with County Administrator Buddy Johnson.
The contract commissioners approved Tuesday morning has an effective date of April 1 and will supersede the county’s previous agreement with Johnson, which drew criticism from some residents who said the deal placed the county at risk of violating federal employment tax laws. Johnson had been contracted as a consultant “assuming the role of County Administrator” since January — a setup he says was intended to save taxpayer money — in a deal that had not been reviewed by county attorney Gabe Ridley prior to its approval.
Ridley reviewed the contract in February and discovered a stipulation in the county’s code of ordinances that stated the administrator must be employed as an at-will employee. Commissioners decided earlier this month to scrap the old contract and have Ridley draw up a new one while also launching a project the overhaul the county’s code of ordinances so the deal can be attempted again next year.
“Once those matters are resolved, we will likely be better prepared to argue for the savings we had hoped to get the taxpayers this year,” Johnson said.
Commissioners emerged from executive session with a unanimous vote to approve a new contractual structure. Commissioner LaFaye Copeland was not present for the vote.
Johnson’s base salary of $90,000 will now be paid directly to him. The county administrator also has access to a county-owned vehicle for work-related use and to commute to and from his Miller County residence. The contract allows the commissioners to provide Johnson a $650 monthly transportation allowance in lieu of providing a vehicle.
“Mr. Ridley did an excellent job researching the matter and the agreement meets all the current requirements of our ordinances while still meeting my needs and preferences for the position minus the savings to the taxpayers that we were shooting for,” Johnson said.
Johnson is contracted with the county as an at-will employee whose services may be terminated at any point by a majority vote on the Board of Commissioners. The commissioners would be required to state a reason for Johnson’s termination.
“Now that this matter is settled, we can solely focus on the more important and pressing matters facing us which will require us to continue to prepare for and combat the unknown issues that seem to be coming daily with the COVID-19 epidemic,” Johnson said in a statement Tuesday. “We must be ready for much worse conditions to come and the inevitable collateral damage that this crisis will bring. We will overcome it, but not without a great cost to everyone. From tragedy will come triumph, and we will emerge better, stronger and resilient.”