After 10 months of silence, council faces questions regarding admin search

Pauley: Admin Hiring Process Could Take 6 More Months

WINNSBORO – During Monday night’s council meeting, council member Dan Ruff questioned Council Chairman Douglas Pauley as to why, after 10 months, council has not hired a firm to recruit a new county administrator. Ruff also wanted to know when the county would post the job vacancy online.

He had a difficult time getting answers.

“Where do we stand on hiring a recruiting firm?” Ruff asked Pauley during county council time. “Do we have one hired? This has been going on for quite a while.”

“It should be very soon,” Pauley said.

“Like when?” Ruff asked.

 “…in the next week or two, should be,” Pauley answered.

“So, we should have one hired in a couple of weeks?” Ruff asked.

“Hired, yes,” Pauley answered.

“So, at what time after [hiring a recruiting firm] do you think we’ll have the job posted?” Ruff asked.

Pauley didn’t answer.

“Does anybody know?” Ruff asked again.

Again, Pauley didn’t answer.

“I mean, if you get [a search firm] hired in a couple of weeks, will they be able to post a job notice in the next couple of weeks after that?

“Does anybody know?” Ruff asked looking around at the other council members, county attorney and administrative staff.

“Yeah, I’ll get with Ms. Washington who’s over the procurement for that and let you know,” Pauley said, without further comment.

The Voice contacted Kathy Washington, the Fairfield County Director of Purchasing, who explained that her role in the selection of a recruiting firm is limited to sending out Requests for Qualifications (RFQ’s) for recruiting firms, receiving their responses and delivering them to the county’s search committee along with scoring sheets for them to score the candidates.

Pauley and council members Clarence Gilbert and Shirley Green make up the committee.

When questioned last spring about the delay in searching for a new administrator, Pauley said the RFQ for recruiting firms did not go out until April.

Former Deputy Administrator Davis Anderson, who oversaw procurement at the county for 10 years, explained that the purchasing department only initiates the RFQ process when called upon to do so.

According to the county website, six responses from recruiters were received by the county’s purchasing department on May 17, 2023.

“In June I gave the requests to council’s search committee along with instructions for them to sign a conflict of interest form; and a score sheet for each council member to score the recruiting firms’ by their responses,” Washington said.

To date, only two of the committee members have returned their score sheets, Washington said.

“I received the first one right away. I received the second one last month (September). I have not received the third one,” she told The Voice.

Washington said the process the county is using cannot move forward until all committee members turn in the score sheets.

The Voice has submitted a Freedom of Information request for those score cards.

In the meantime, Laura Johnson continues to serve as interim county administrator. Council hired Johnson in January 2023 for 6 months at a salary equivalent to $150,000 annually. In June, council renewed her contract, and in two more months Johnson will have served a full year with the full year’s salary.

Johnson was previously the finance director for the county and had served a year as assistant under then-county administrator Jason Taylor. Both left the county in mid-2021. Taylor, who had 20 years’ experience as a county and city administrator, and brought in more than $100 million in economic development during his five years with the county, was earning about $140,000 when he left, about $10,000 less than Johnson is earning as interim administrator.

In Other Business

In a 7-0 vote, Kerry Matthews was appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals for District 3.

In an update on the disposition of the former administration building, Johnson said that because it is held as collateral for the 2013 IPRB Bond, known as the ‘’$24,000 Fairfield Facilities Bond,” she asked council to delay disposition of the building at this time.

“That collateral,” she said, “is going to be transferred to the DSS DHEC building on Kincaid Bridge Road.”

The county is hoping to receive an EDA Recompete Grant that would allow the former administration building to be repurposed.

Stephens named PIO for county

Johnson announced that former Chamber of Commerce president Gene Stephens will be the new Public Information Officer (PIO) for the county. The job was posted as paying $65,000 annually.

“The county needs a PIO to actually disseminate accurate information to the public about county business and how their decisions affect our citizens,” Johnson said. “We have all seen and read where decisions are made here and explained in detail, but it’s not being reported accurately or not fully reported,” Johnson said.

She said Stephens will also be responsible for ribbon cuttings, Facebook and other social media accounts, and interacting with the media to provide information about services that the county provides. He will update the website and deal with the FOIA requests, and other things, according to Johnson.

Economic Development

Council was invited to the Economic Development Committee meeting on Monday, Oct. 16 at 3 p.m., in council chambers. The goal of the committee is to discuss the economic development strategic plan before it is brought to full council for a vote.

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