Citizens concerned about overpayment to Patton

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Several Decatur County citizens have recently expressed their concern that former County Administrator Tom Patton was given too much in severance pay, after his resignation Feb. 28.

According to a memo prepared by County Attorney Brown Moseley, Patton initially wanted to submit a letter of resignation that would include a severance payment of six months salary, amounting to $52,000. Those terms were reportedly rejected by Commissioners Oliver Sellers, Frank Loeffler and Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely, and negotiations continued during an executive session to discuss “personnel” at the Feb. 28 Decatur County Board of Commissioners meeting.

According to Moseley’s memo, it was proposed that Patton’s resignation would only include the compensation he was entitled to receive from the county. A letter was prepared by Human Resources Director Marjorie Mayfield, that itemized sick time, accrued personal time off and days worked, and that total came to $29,408.

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According to Moseley’s memo, Mayfield requested that Accounting Technician Michelle West process the check for that amount. Accounting Clerk Krystal Carter then discovered the amount was in error and featured four days pay that Patton was not entitled to, amounting to $1,600.
“The miscalculation appears to be an honest mistake, and no one has contended otherwise,” Moseley wrote.

Also according to Moseley’s memo: “The miscalculation in the amount of the check was known to Marjorie, [Finance Director] Carl [Rowland] and [Chairman] Dr. [Charles T.] Stafford before the [resignation] letter was signed. The error in the check was not discussed with any of the other commissioners at that time.”

Moseley later wrote in the memo that the issue was discussed at the board’s March 13 meeting, in executive session, and that commissioners “agreed that any action to recover the $1,600 would be more trouble and expense than it would be worth.”

At Tuesday’s board meeting, county citizen Michael Duke addressed the controversy.

“As soon as that error was known, why was it not brought to the attention of the Board of Commissioners,” he said. “If you issue money to someone, and you know that it is incorrect, then that’s fraud and it’s dishonest. That’s unacceptable.”

Duke said he had requested several public records related to Patton’s payroll account, but had not yet received them.

Mosely said Tuesday that he believed Mayfield, Rowland and Stafford should combine to pay back the $1,600 overpayment, and even made a motion to that effect. Sellers seconded the motion, but it failed 4-2 — Mosely and Sellers voted “yes” while Loeffler, Stafford and Commissioners Russell Smith and Dr. Earl Perry voted “no.”

Perry vehemently rejected the idea that county staff employees should be responsible for rectifying the mistake.

“I’m prepared right now to write a check, from my personal funds, to Decatur County for $1,600,” he said. “Or I will write it and make it payable to the Butch Mosely Ego Fund, if that would satisfy him better.”

Loeffler also said he would agree to help split the cost of the overpayment. However, no commissioner made such a motion during Tuesday’s meeting.

Perry also said he thought the check and accepted resignation letter were both invalid, because those actions and votes should have been taken in a public meeting setting and not in executive session.

“I think there is a more fundamental issue here,” said Perry, who was unable to attend the Feb. 28 meeting because of health reasons. “The Board of Commissioners, the five who were present, violated state law at that time. Decisions made in an executive session must be confirmed by a vote in a public meeting. The check was illegally issued, because it had not been approved by the Board of Commissioners in a public meeting.”

Perry called for a motion to table the issue for a future meeting, until further research could be completed, and that motion was approved unanimously.

Duke shook his head, before returning to his seat.

“My only comment is that it looks like you have condoned what you approved illegally,” he said. “I disapprove of you, gentlemen.”