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Town staff pay raises challenged

Town Administrator Dan Olson’s process of determining salary raises came under fire from Leisure Services Coordinator Sue Stuhl in September.

An internal memo, anonymously mailed to farragutpress and dated Sept. 8, investigates claims that Olson raised some staff members’ salaries above the Board-approved salary range.

Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved staff salary ranges in April.

“There were a few people who, even though the Board set a range, they were already being paid more than the range,” Town Attorney Tom Hale said.

At its April 10 meeting, the Board decided to approve the ranges despite this, but asked Olson and the Personnel Committee to investigate the discrepancy in market ranges and actual pay for certain employees.

The Board wanted to ensure the Town was “paying people appropriately: not too high and not too low,” Hale said.

“So they come up with this methodology to set that range so that, in that way, the Board approves the range but then Dan Olson has the ability and responsibility of determining, within the range, what people should be paid,” he added.

“So when he gave the raises that were effective beginning in July … he just made a mistake. He was not careful when he did it, and just gave raises across the board, to everybody, and some of those people ended up going above what they should have.”

Olson corrected Hale’s terms, saying raises were never given “across the board,” but by merit only.

“If we’re going to go with a complete merit system, which is what we have, because we don’t go across the board, those employees earned those raises,” Olson said.

Six employees were overpaid: Town Engineer Darryl Smith, Engineering Technician Greg Norman, Community Develop-ment Coordinator Mark Shipley, Public Works crewmembers Duane Belcher and Gary Goudreau and Codes Officer Elliott Sievers.

The total amount of money overpaid these Town employees is about $2,000.

“Sue called him on it,” Hale said of the over-pay.

Olson agreed he had made a mistake.

“It was a mistake I clearly made because I believed we had established the pay ranges high enough that they would last for at least a couple of years,” Olson said.

“That was the goal going in,” he added of the pay range-establishment process.

Olson said he assumed the ranges were high enough to handle the raises.

The raises above salary caps are no longer being paid, but the $2,000 has not been repaid, largely because the Grievance Committee did not say who should repay it.

“The question of where it’s going to be handled on the pay-back is still in question,” Hale said.

“It’s something I’ve got to take up with the Board,” Olson said.

“Some of [the employees] have offered to pay the money back. I said ‘no.’ If anybody is required to pay it back, and the Board has not determined that, it should be me and not the employees,” he added.

“I was the one that authorized the raises, not the employees.”


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