Though salary increases approved last week by the Augusta Commission for the county’s sheriff and solicitor-general drew outrage, one elected official has received nearly $26,000 in supplemental pay that skirted state guidelines and was never authorized by commissioners.
According to a document obtained by The Augusta Chronicle through an open records request, Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick secured the $25,941 raise with a 2008 letter he wrote to former human resources manager Moses McCauley.
“Per our conversation,” it stated, the tax commissioner’s salary was to be 15 percent higher than that of his highest-paid employee, Deputy Tax Commissioner Jack McAdams.
McAdams earned $96,000, which with the 15 percent "premium" added, boosted Kendrick's pay from the base amount set by local legislation, $78,000, to $110,000.
City Administrator Fred Russell said the city made a mistake in allowing the unusual supplement and not seeking commission approval.
“We did it wrong,” he said, denying knowledge of the pay boost “until after the fact.”
Kendrick said he was told that was how to determine his salary when he sent the letter before taking office in January 2009.
“That’s what I was told was standard policy,” he said, citing conversations with Russell, several commissioners, McCauley and former city human resources director Rod Powell. “I have no idea other than what they told me at the time.”
Mike Blanchard, the city’s interim human resources director, said he was unaware of any policy that used an official’s highest-salaried employee to calculate a salary, but he was aware it had been done once.
“I don’t know if it has been the practice in the far reaches of the past, but it hasn’t been written down,” Blanchard said.
McCauley, now retired, didn’t recall such a policy either but said that if he’d received Kendrick’s letter, he would have forwarded it to Powell or Russell, who had authority over salary amounts McCauley said he did not have.
The Salary Guide for Georgia County Officials, an annual guide available in 2008, spells out how to calculate the salaries of sheriffs, tax commissioners and other county elected officials under state law. House Bill 837 set the base salary of the Richmond County tax commissioner in 2002 at $78,000.
Kendrick said his recent request for a 5 percent pay increase – required for re-elected officials under the state salary guidelines that weren’t used in 2008 – likely triggered the recent effort to fix his situation.
Before commissioners voted Feb. 11 on the supplements for Sheriff Richard Roundtree and Solicitor-General Kellie Kenner-McIntyre, they were asked to approve a $25,941.18 supplement for the tax commissioner, “consistent with the practice since Jan. 1, 2009.”
Despite not having commission approval for his supplement, Kendrick will not see his salary go down, Russell said.
“Once you give a salary, you can’t take it back,” he said.