WARNER ROBINS -- An employee who took on duties as the citys spokeswoman was given a $15,000 raise, but thats not exactly what City Council intended, according to council members.
Council members Carolyn Robbins, Paul Shealy, Mike Daley, Mike Davis and Mike Brashear said this week they budgeted the funds to be used for all expenses, including increased benefits and equipment, related to adding the media relations responsibilities to an existing employees duties. Councilman Daron Lee said he understood it would be used for salary and benefits, but he hadnt thought about the equipment.
Well probably leave it the way its done, Brashear said. If shes already been given that amount for a pay raise, then I dont want to go back and change that.
Mayor Chuck Shaheen said the money was for salary alone.
You misheard, he told a Telegraph reporter when asked if he misspoke during an interview this summer when he said the $15,000 was for salary, benefits and equipment.
He elaborated Wednesday.
I do not believe that there was any miscommunication. During a previous council meeting, the understanding was that the approved $15,000 would be used to expand the roles of a current employee," Shaheen said in a prepared statement sent via e-mail by city spokeswoman Ruby Hamb-Holmes. "The role expansions for the new position of Public Information Officer came also with the clear understanding that the funds would be used for salary alone. I strongly believe that this position (if given the opportunity) will prove to be beneficial to our city by disseminating accurate, up-to-date information to our citizens, which should be viewed as good use of taxpayers' money.
During budget season, Shaheen proposed a new media relations position, which would have cost the city $43,000 for salary, benefits and equipment.
Council members compromised and approved $15,000 instead for an existing city employee to take on the media needs.
Maybe he took it as that was supposed to be all salary, and we took (it) that was supposed to be for any kind of equipment (too), Robbins said.
Ruby Hamb-Holmes, recreation program director with grant-writing experience, was named spokeswoman in July. In addition to the $15,000 raise, she was issued an iPad, iPhone and digital camera.
Her former salary was $39,576, according to human resources director Bryan Fobbus. With her raise, she now makes $54,576.
Brashear and Robbins said monthly financial reports that began last month will help them track expenditures to make sure money is spent as council intends. Finance director Bill Harte is expected to present July -- and possibly August -- budget figures at the Oct. 1 meeting.
I dont believe theres any misuse of funds being spent, Robbins said.
Robbins added that if council finds any discrepancies in the reports, it could change the amount of money allowed to be spent without council approval. The current limit is $5,000.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.