LEESBURG, Ga. — Visibly shaken by the lack of support from three members of the Lee County Commission, District 2 Commissioner Betty Johnson said Tuesday she will end her service on the panel prematurely.
Johnson made the surprise announcement during the commission’s meeting Tuesday evening when Chairman Ed Duffy and Commissioners Bill Williams and Dennis Roland voted down a change she and Commission Vice Chairman Rick Muggridge proposed to a new compensation and classification study.
“Mr. Chairman, I am so emotional with this situation that I have worked you don’t know how many countless hours on,” Johnson said. “In all my years, I have tried to seek equality among salaries for Lee County workers.
“It looks like I have failed again. As soon as the election is over in November, I will no longer be the District 2 Commissioner.”
Johnson did not seek re-election and had planned to serve through the end of the calendar year.
Johnson and Muggride wanted to make a minor change to the study, which would result in all four of the county’s clerks being rated in the same classification.
According to Johnson and Muggridge, the clerks for Magistrate Court, Probate Court, Superior Court and tax commissioner should be at the same level.
Currently, the clerks for Magistrate and Superior court are rated in the same classification. The clerk for the tax commissioner is rated slightly higher, with the clerk for Probate Court rated highest among the four, Muggridge said.
Duffy began the discussion on the new wage study, which was conducted by The Mercer Group Inc., by saying the consultants doing the review determined that 48 county employees were underpaid.
Duffy said those employees, by virtue of having their classifications changed, will receive pay raises. It will cost the county $97,112 to bring them in compliance with the study, Duffy said.
“What we feared was found out to be true, that a certain number of our employees are underpaid,” said Muggridge. “We have an obligation to our taxpayers and the citizens to operate the delivery of county government as efficiently as possible. We also have a moral obligation to pay our employees a living wage.”
Muggridge said he agreed with the methodology used by the Mercer Group and believes “it is a document and process this county will be able to use for a very long time.”
Duffy said the county paid $25,000 for the wage survey, and he thought it was critical to accept the survey as presented so it would retain it’s nonpolitical nature.
“I’m not sure the Mercer Group will sign off on this if we change anything in their findings,” Duffy said. “This is an unbiased wage survey report. I say we need to listen to the professionals.”
Muggridge said he did not view the minor change as political but would be taking advantage of Johnson’s vast experience in salary equality.
Muggridge said the consultant who authored the report spent less than 10 hours in the county.
“I don’t make any excuses for reviewing every single position,” Muggridge said. “I think that is what I got put here for.”
Muggridge and Johnson are on the county’s Personnel Committee.
After Johnson expressed her disappointment in the commission for not making the proposed change, Duffy affirmed his stand against altering the report.
“We would never have had this survey without Betty’s passion for it, but I still think we need to accept this survey without change,” he said.
Williams and Roland were mostly silent during the discussion.
Muggridge assured Johnson that her efforts on behalf of county employees were not fruitless.
“They (the people who were underpaid) owe that (the reclassification and pay increase) to Commissioner Johnson and Commissioner Johnson alone,” he said. “She fought for that. Her battle has not been in vain.”