Open clerk position creates heated debate among Mantachie aldermen

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Tempers flared among Mantachie’s aldermen during a debate of whether or not to hire an assistant clerk or use a temp agency.

Voices were raised several times during the board’s recent meeting as aldermen fervently argued the pros and cons of replacing assistant clerk Linda Warren, who left the office in late 2011. Alderman Tim Jones motioned in favor of advertising to hire a new part-time clerk, which was seconded by Matt Fennell. But Aldermen Mike Horton, Tim Spradlin and Wayne Guin voted against the motion, arguing that the position didn’t require a permanent part-time employee.

The part-time employee would have worked at least 20 hours a week assisting town clerk Tanya Rayburn in her duties

The negative vote didn’t go down easily, however. In particular, Mayor Jeff Butler argued adamantly against using a temp agency, stating that the position requires too much familiarity to be filled sporadically.

“You can’t teach a temp the kinds of things [Tanya] knows before that person’s gone,” Butler said. “That won’t work. Let me just put it that way. A temp won’t work.

“We need to either have a part-time person or a full-time person,” Butler added.

The mayor expressed strong concerns that if the town’s clerk had to be off for an extended amount of time, the town would be left without a trained replacement.

“We’ve got to have someone to fall back on,” Butler argued. “[Tanya] can’t even take a vacation.”

Jones, who made the initial motion to hire a new part-time employee, backed Butler’s recommendation.

“We’re going to be up the creek without a paddle,” Jones said. “We’ve gone through this over and over and over. I thought we had already decided that we needed two people in that office — especially when court is going on and at the beginning of the month.”

But the dissenting aldermen wouldn’t back down. Horton, in particular, stressed that he didn’t think the position warranted two employees.

“I don’t want to do that,” Horton said. “I just don’t think we need that. I think we need someone if Tanya’s sick, or out; but if Tanya’s here, I don’t think we need two people in that office.”

The mayor, however, held his position.

“That’s your opinion and it’s wrong,” Butler said. “I deal with this office a lot more than you do … and my opinion is that there needs to be someone in there to fall back on. We’ve been through this before.”

Butler then said he would contact the state attorney general’s office to see if he could veto the board’s negative vote. Horton quickly asserted that the mayor doesn’t have the power to veto a negative vote.

“You go ahead and call the attorney general’s office,” he said. “You can’t veto a negative vote; the [attorney general] already told us that. You’re not going to get a part-time employee acting that way.”

“I still think we need to check into the temp service,” said Spradlin, who voted against the motion.

“I do not want a temp in that office,” Butler said. “There’s stuff in there that’s too important for a temp to come in and be associated with.”

The alderman argued that temporary employees are trained in their respective areas and are utilized by major companies nationwide.

“These people go all over the country and do that,” Spradlin said.

Butler raised his voice.

“Well go ahead and vote on one and see if I don’t veto that,” he said. “I’m telling you right now ahead of time, I will veto that.”

In the end, town attorney Greg Keenum suggested the board to break the argument and move forward. They did, but the mayor continued to assert that the negative vote would ultimate ly do damage to the town.

“You are making a mistake,” Butler said, commenting to the three aldermen who voted against the motion. “You’re hurting the town more than anything, you three. I’ve never seen anybody in my life like ya’ll, wanting to hurt the town.”

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