Leesburg After being challenged by a consultant conducting a wage survey for Lee County’s government employees, Commission Vice Chairman Rick Muggridge says he was in error regarding time the consultant spent locally working on the report.
Lee County commissioners approved a new compensation and classification study last week that was compiled by The Mercer Group in North Carolina.
The survey was approved by a 3-2 vote in which Muggridge and District 2 Commissioner Betty Johnson wanted to slightly alter the report to rate four county clerks identically.
Johnson felt so strongly about the change, which was voted down, that she told commissioners she would prematurely step down from the board just as soon as her replacement is chosen in November.
During the debate, Muggridge contended that the consultant who directed the study, Phillip Robertson, spent fewer than 10 hours in the county working on the study.
Robertson, who is senior vice president of Mercer Group, called The Herald to challenge Muggridge’s statement.
Robertson said, according to his records, he spent 18 days in Lee County doing market studies and interviewing employees.
“My only point is so employees, competitors and future clients know that I did not spend less than 10 hours in the county,” Robertson said. “I spent three hours just talking with Mr. Muggridge.”
Muggridge said, upon further review, Robertson “spent a great deal more than 10 hours of time in the county working on the survey.”
“As far as I can gather, at least three eight-hour days interviewing and at least four other full days that I am aware of, as well as two personnel committee meetings and two full board meetings and meetings with individual board members,” Muggridge said.
Despite his error, Muggridge said he was satisfied with the methodology and the vast majority of the results.
Robertson confirmed that he would not have signed off on the study if it had been altered by commissioners.
“It’s like an audit,” he said. “I was auditing a pay plan and classification study. You can compare it to a financial audit. I can’t stay in business with a reputation of doing a study and, if elected officials don’t like it, then I change it.”
He said he met with Muggridge and Johnson to explain his reasoning behind having different pay classifications for the clerks.
Muggridge believes the report could have been altered and still maintained its integrity.
“My intent was to say that no survey, no matter how well done or how much time was spent observing the county employees, could compare to the wealth of data that my fellow commissioner had gathered over 40 years of service to this county.” he said.
Lee County commissioners paid $25,000 for the study which resulted in the county spending $97,000 to raise the salary levels of 48 workers. Those who had their salaries raised were making below the minimum for their job, according to Robertson’s assessment.