Salary remains in limbo

Published 7:13 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

Beaufort County’s leaders remained undecided this week on whether to restore the salary of the county’s former economic development leader following the recent filing of an annual report on economic development activities.
At a meeting earlier this week, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners did not reverse a decision by its members last month to suspend Tom Thompson’s pay until they received the report.
At their meeting in June, the commissioners voted, with only two dissenting members, to suspend Thompson’s salary. He faced a loss of an estimated $6,226 in salary and travel allowances.
Thompson’s salary as EDC director was $115,800 per year. He was also allocated an additional $12,000 per year in a travel allowance.
About three days after their vote, County Manager Randell Woodruff received via email a five-page annual report of economic development activities for the past year. It was accompanied by a year-to-date financial report.
“Do we have what we’ve needed?” Langley asked at Monday’s commissioners meeting.
The board members did not respond to his query.
In April, Thompson, who served as chief executive officer of the Beaufort County Committee of 100 and director of the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission for over a decade, announced his resignation from the posts effective June 30.
Although Thompson’s work was praised by business and industry leaders, in recent months some EDC activities have been criticized from some local residents and county leaders.
They questioned whether the county has been getting its money’s worth from industrial recruitment activities, particularly the construction of buildings intended to attract industry and county expenditures on creating industrial parks in the community.
The commissioners also delayed action on a request from Thompson for compensation of $16,183.27 for accrued vacation days.
Meanwhile, county leaders continue to advocate for changes in local economic development activities and operations.
Whereas Thompson worked to closely align the publicly-funded Economic Development Commission and the private, non-profit Committee of 100, county leaders now believe the two groups should remain at arms-length.
And they believe the county’s economic development director should be more closely directed by and report to the county manager.
“I really think the manager should hire the economic development director,” said Commissioner Jay McRoy. “And the economic director should report to (the county manager). The manager should be responsible for the employees.”
Commissioner Al Klemm said a rewrite of the EDC by-laws will stipulate that the economic development director will be required to move to Beaufort County and will have six months to relocate to the county, if needed.
One of the criticisms lobbed against Thompson was that he continued to have his primary residence in Craven County years after he was hired to oversee Beaufort County’s economic development activities.
Klemm, who also serves on the EDC, said the rewrite of the organization’s by-laws has been delayed, in part, by recent discussions by the Washington City Council regarding its share of economic development funds.
“The committee has gone as far as it can until the city makes its funding intentions known,” Klemm said.
The city’s budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year allocated $60,000 to the EDC and $30,000 for professional services to help the city conduct its own economic-development marketing.