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Changes raise concerns of supervisors

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Oct. 3, 2003
Lauderdale County supervisors said Thursday they are concerned over recent personnel changes in Tax Assessor Jimmy Slay's office changes some fear could affect service to the people.
Slay said immediately following his re-election in August, a person who worked as a real property appraiser quit. Slay said he fired a second person who also worked as a real property appraiser.
Supervisors, though, questioned the changes.
Jimmie Smith, District 2 supervisor, said he doesn't know what the problem was or is with the employees who no longer work for Slay. But Smith said the county invested in their certification and education.
Craig Hitt, the District 3 supervisor who serves as president of the board of supervisors, said that over the past two months more than 30 years of experience has left the tax assessor's office.
Hitt's and Smith's comments came during a work session of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors in advance of its regularly scheduled business meeting on Monday.
Discussion halted
Rick Barry, the board's attorney, advised members to stop discussing employee issues with Slay and talk about them in a closed session as part of the board meeting Monday.
State law allows but does not mandate public bodies to close meetings to discuss a list of topics that include "personnel matters."
Slay told supervisors on Thursday that even though two people no longer work for his office he is there to answer questions people may have.
Slay said that he and another employee, Deputy Assessor Judy Welge, deal with personal property issues and questions on a daily basis.
Until 2000, Slay said, the county had two personal property appraisers on staff. Since that time, personal property appraisals have been contracted to Statewide Appraisal, based in Brandon.
Slay said Statewide Appraisal has done an excellent job.
He asked supervisors to re-approve his office's contract with the company. He told supervisors that the company's fee for its services would increase from $24,000 to $28,000.
Supervisors delay
But supervisors delayed a vote.
Hitt asked Slay to document those savings for Monday's meeting.
Slay told the board that five years before he first took office the personal property division of the tax assessor's office was not in compliance with the state Tax Commission.
From the time he took office, he said, "we've been in compliance with the state Tax Commission and passed all of their audits."
County tax assessor offices are audited every year by the state to make sure they comply with regulations set forth in three areas: personal property, real property and mapping.
Supervisors asked Slay to schedule the owners of Statewide Appraisal, husband and wife Christy and John Lewis, to meet with the board Oct. 16 to discuss fees and the work it does.