Judge: Twiggs official was overpaid, not underpaid

A Twiggs County commissioner who sued the county, claiming that he was underpaid for his commission service, was actually overpaid, a judge has ruled.

Neither Commissioner Tommie Lee Bryant nor the county owe each other money, however, according to the ruling.

Robert E. Turner, a magistrate from Houston County working the case for Twiggs County Magistrate Court, said both sides were right in a way, because Bryant was overpaid generally, but the county had not been including a required longevity increase.

Twiggs County Attorney Tom Richardson said the law says people can’t be forced to return overpayments that were made voluntarily, so neither Bryant nor other commissioners would have to pay back any extra money. Richardson said he understood that most of the other commissioners may also have been overpaid, and that problem has since been fixed.

“I think they’ve already started the proper rate of pay,” he said.

Richardson was not directly involved in the case. He said it could have presented a conflict of interest to represent the board of commissioners when the board was being sued by one of the commissioners.

Turner ruled that between 2001 and 2009, Bryant was paid $66,710.09 for his commission service but deserved just $58,849.33, a difference of $7,860.76. Only in one of those years was Bryant paid the proper amount. He was underpaid about $1,400 one year, paid several hundred dollars more than he deserved for a few years, and then began receiving thousands more than he was owed.

In 2009 -- the last year for which pay figures were submitted -- Bryant was paid about $10,700 but deserved about $7,800.

County Commission Chairman Ray Bennett said county officials are still trying to figure out how the overpayments got started.

“We’ll have to review that. I’m not certain,” Bennett said. “We’ve got our administrator reviewing what has taken place and hope to find some semblance of whether it was a computer error or a human error.”

Bennett said the commissioners’ positions are more like community service than a job with the low rate of pay.

Bryant had sued to demand $469.56, plus $100 in unspecified costs because of the unpaid longevity increase. Turner ruled that Bryant would have been eligible for a $190.28 increase if he hadn’t already been getting paid more than he was owed.

Bryant said he didn’t know how the pay discrepancies started.

“I couldn’t even start to tell you that,” he said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.