Delegation opens door to raising salaries



The stage is set for Augusta legislators to adjust the salaries of one or more Richmond County elected officials, whether or not the Augusta Commission agrees.

Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, said he met a Friday deadline for advertising the delegation’s intentions in the newspaper if it agrees to do so before March 20, the deadline to file local bills.

“The groundwork is there in the event that (commissioners) send us something saying they support it, or if they can’t get the support, we’ll have to make the decision on our own,” Howard said.

In January, new Richmond County Sheriff Richard Round­tree and new Solicitor-Gen­eral Kellie Kenner-McIn­tyre went through City Administrator Fred Russell in seeking salaries higher than the minimums required under state law.

Russell put the question to commissioners, who voted 6-4 after heated debate to pay the increases.

Other requests for raises soon followed from Richmond County’s two civil and magistrate court judges, probate judge and clerk of courts.

On Monday, a commission committee declined to approve a resolution for the delegation to review all Richmond County elected officials’ salaries. The matter is set to go before the commission Tuesday.

Commission approval is not required for the delegation to pass a local bill raising the salaries, though a majority of local House members and both Augusta senators must approve it.

Among those who have reached out to the delegation are civil and magistrate judges Bill Jennings and Scott Allen and Coroner Grover Tuten, whose salaries the delegation has not examined or adjusted in years, Howard said.
In 2007, legislation raised the salaries of the clerk of courts, solicitor, district attorney, sheriff and Superior Court judges. It left the rest of Augusta elected officials’ salaries as is.

Jennings and Allen earn $116,702 and $118,206, which they noted in a letter to commissioners is less than what is made by Au­gusta’s general counsel, Rich­mond County State Court judges and Augusta circuit Superior Court judges.

Tuten’s salary is $65,000 according to the human resources department, and he hasn’t had a pay increase since 2002, when the delegation set his salary. Probate Judge Harry James makes $109,500, while Mayor Deke Co­pen­haver’s salary is $75,844.

Howard said the delegation has had little time to meet to discuss making changes but would be able to craft a bill addressing all of the salaries by the deadline if it chose to do so.

“I’m sure each member is probably doing some of their own research,” he said, but, “It’s a process that requires the will of the majority of the body.”

Representing Augusta in the Legislature are Howard, Earn­est Smith, Gloria Frazier, Quincy Murphy and Har­die Davis, all Augusta Dem­ocrats, and Republicans Barbara Sims of Augusta and Jesse Stone of Waynesboro.

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• Rep. Gloria Frazier, D-Hephzibah

• Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta

• Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta

• Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta

• Rep. Earnest Smith, D-Augusta

• Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta

• Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro