Fairfield County Council reverses direction on filling vacant administrator position

WINNSBORO – At the Oct. 9 county council meeting, Chairman Doug Pauley announced council would hire a recruiting firm within two weeks to begin a search for a county administrator. At Monday night’s county council meeting he announced a change in plans.

“Instead of hiring an expensive firm to recruit a county administrator, a decision was made to advertise for an administrator through our human resources process,” Pauley said, reading from a prepared statement.

“I am working with a committee to revise and update the county administrator job description,” he said.

Pauley said he obtained some examples of job descriptions from the SC Association of Counties to update Fairfield’s job description for the position.

“My goal is to have the administrator position posted on the county’s website along with the SC Association of Counties and the Municipal Association of SC website by Nov. 1,” he said.

He said the position will remain open for four weeks after it is first posted.

“The committee will then narrow the applicants to the top candidates before the interviews are conducted. The goal is to have a selection made by Jan. 1, 2024,” Pauley said.

Pauley announced last April that council had issued an RFQ for recruiting firms to search for a suitable candidate. A committee made up of council members Doug Pauley, Shirley Greene and Clarence Gilbert were to score the applicants and select the one to be awarded the recruiting job.

However, after the applications were received in late May, the committee who was to select the firm did not complete the process.

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

“It was in early June that 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,” said the County’s Procurement Director Kathy Washington who is in charge of receiving the applications and disseminating them to the committee members.

At the time of the Oct. 9 council meeting, only two of the committee members had returned their score sheets, Washington said.

“I received the first one right away. I received the second one last month. 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 turned in the score sheets.

The Voice submitted a Freedom of Information request for those score cards and received a response earlier this week.

Greene turned her score card in July 12, 2023. Gilbert submitted his on August 29, 2023 and Pauley turned his in on Oct. 11, 2023, two days after the Oct. 9 council meeting when he was questioned by Councilman Dan Ruff about a timeline for hiring the recruiting firm.

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 a $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.

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