CHIPLEY — After a mere hour’s debate, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners appointed Public Services Director David Corbin to serve as a “point of contact” in lieu of appointing an interim county administrator.
“I’ll bend over backwards to help anyone up there,’ Corbin said to the commissioners. “I would be be glad to step up to the plate and help any way I can.”
However, Corbin wasn’t the commissioners’ first nomination of the morning when the board met in special session Tuesday to discuss seeking a replacement for County Administrator Steve Joyner, who resigned his position with the county on Thursday.
Commissioner Todd Abbott proposed former commissioner Hulan Carter to serve as an interim county administrator, but his motion was defeated 3-2 with Commissioners Lynn Gothard, Alan Bush and Charles Brock voting against appointing Carter.
Abbott also suggested the county’s interim Human Resources Director Albert Davis as a possible choice, but that suggestion had been voted down on Thursday following Joyner’s announcement and did not come to a vote again on Tuesday.
Brock said he questioned whether or not the county needed a county administrator, and suggested appointing Corbin as a “point of contact” person to whom county department heads could turn if they had problems.
Corbin would also be given signature authority for day-to-day expenditures above what department heads are allowed.
“The board has the authority to define what David would do in this position,” County Attorney Jeff Goodman said. “The county has the ability to deal with contracts on a month-to-month basis, and those are approved by the board.”
Goodman said the board should grant Corbin some flexibility in dealing with day-to-day running of the county.
Commissioner Joel Pate noted that the county budgets would soon be due, and said it was necessary to have a county administrator in place to oversee the creation of the budgets.
County Clerk Linda Cook disagreed, however, saying the department heads and the county finance office were capable of creating a budget without the oversight of a county manager.
“Every time we hire someone to run the county, we don’t let him do his job,” Pate said. “This board gets involved and won’t leave him alone.”
“We owe it to the employees to have a point of contact,” said Abbott at the opening of the meeting. “We have invoices that need signed, the budgets are coming up and there are the day-to-day operations to oversee.”
Pate noted that advertising the position properly will take 60-90 days, and then there will be the interviewing process.
“We want to advertise all over the state of Florida,” Abbott said. “We want to have as qualified a candidate as possible to interview.” He noted that some nearby counties have been undergoing county manager searches as well.
“I hate to say it, but the only way we are going to bring this county into the 21th Century is to hire someone from the outside,” Pate said.
Brock said the board should take time to consider the situation and not rush into anything. “I think we should not move too quickly,” Brock said. “Maybe the department heads can run things on their own.
Chairman Bush asked interim HR director Davis if he would be interested in applying for the county administrator position, and Davis said he would. Bush asked if the county attorney could oversee the creation of the job description for the county administrator, so Davis would not have to write the description for a position for which he would be applying.
“I’m not saying you can’t write your own job description, I have done it myself in the past,” Bush said. “But it probably wasn’t the right thing to do.”
Brock said that Corbin had the most experience of any employee with the county and would be a good choice for a go-between for the employees and the board.
“I think you are putting David under an incredible amount of pressure,” Abbott said. “You all know that he is a people-pleaser, and he would do anything he could to help someone.”
Corbin told the board he would not accept an interim county manager position, but would be happy to serve as a contact person to fill in until a county administrator can be hired.
“I just want to have a job to come back to,” Corbin said. “I’d be glad to help the employees and serve the board.
“When I hired on with the county in August of 1979, it was the best move I ever made,” Corbin said. “My main thing is the employees. The employees need some kind of structure, someone they can count on.”
Gothard asked Corbin why he didn’t want to serve as an interim county administrator. ”What part of the county administrator duties are you uncomfortable with?”
“I didn’t think it was going that way, I thought I was going to be a point of contact,” Corbin said.
“Would you be comfortable with the duties of county administrator?” Gothard asked.
“David’s abilities go way beyond being a county administrator,” Abbott said to Gothard. “I can’t believe the pressure you are putting this man under. In fact, maybe I shouldn’t say this, but you have applied so much pressure to him that he has filed a complaint against you.”
“More important than the title is that you tell this person what it is you expect him to do,” Goodman said. “He needs to have clear direction from the board in what his duties will be.”
The board voted 4-1 to appoint Corbin as the point of contact person, with Abbott voting against.
The board requested that a county administrator job description be prepared in time for the May workshop and Bush asked the board to decide at the next meeting how Corbin would be compensated for his additional duties. Once decided, the compensation can be made retroactive to April 30.
“He needs to be paid for his work,” Abbott said.