Thompson’s pay on hold

Published 7:40 pm Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Board acts pending delivery of economic development report

Saying they were tired of waiting for the county’s economic-development director to provide them with a report of economic-development activity which they had requested some months ago, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners suspended Tom Thompson’s pay until they receive the report.

The commissioners on Monday voted 4-2 to not continue to pay Thompson, who has led the county’s economic-development efforts for more than a decade, for the remainder of the month.

“I am very disappointed that he has not provided us with that report,” said Commissioner Al Klemm, who also serves on the Economic Development Commission’s Board of Directors.

Commissioners Robert Cayton and Jay McRoy cast dissenting votes.

Board Chairman Jerry Langley attended the meeting, but he arrived after the vote was taken.

The suspension of Thompson’s pay is scheduled to begin following the end of Thompson’s service as a juror in Craven County, according to the motion approved by the commissioners.

A telephone call to Thompson’s office seeking his comment was not returned by deadline for this edition of the Washington Daily News.

In April, Thompson announced his intention to retire from his posts as the director of the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission and chief executive officer of the Beaufort County Committee of 100 effective June 30.

The Beaufort County Committee of 100 is the private, nonprofit arm of the Economic Development Commission. The commission operates with taxpayer funds, with Beaufort County contributing $195,031, the City of Washington providing $91,789 and remaining municipalities (combined) providing just under $23,000 of the commission’s $309,440 budget in the current fiscal year.

Thompson’s salary as EDC director is $115,800 per year. He is also allocated an additional $12,000 per year in a travel allowance, according to Jim Chrisman, county finance officer.

Based on the commissioner’s actions, he would suffer a salary loss from this past Monday through June 30, which would total an estimated $5,272 in salary and $954 in travel expenses if his salary were prorated from the date of the commissioners meeting, Chrisman said.

If Thompson submits the report, the salary suspension is expected to be lifted, Chrisman said.

In March, Thompson met with the commissioners and presented an overview of economic-development activities in the county for the past 10 years. But members of the board said the presentation fell short of the annual report that Thompson was obligated to present to the board as required by the Economic Development Commission’s bylaws.

Thompson was hired to spearhead economic development in Beaufort County after serving in similar posts in Craven County and Farmville.

Although Thompson’s work has been praised by business and industry leaders, in recent months some EDC activities have been criticized by some local residents and some county leaders. They have questioned whether the county has been getting its money’s worth from industrial recruitment activities.

The vote to suspend Thompson’s pay comes as an Economic Development Commission committee under takes a rewrite of that organization’s governing documents that is predicted to give the county commissioners more oversight of its activities.

And it comes as county leaders begin their review of more than a dozen applications the county has received from people who want to succeed Thompson.