Charleston County Council has never evaluated the performances of County Administrator Kurt Taylor or two other employees, each of whom is paid more than $100,000 a year, but that's about to change, says Chairman Teddie Pryor.
County Council members currently are completing their individual evaluations of Taylor, Joe Dawson, the county attorney, and Robert Stewart, the internal auditor, who report directly to the council. Pryor said he expects to collect those, compile the information and complete the evaluations by the end of the month. When it's done, County Council will release the documents to the public as required by the state's Freedom of Information Act, he said.
It's unclear how many of the state's 46 counties conduct evaluations of top administrators, said Susan Turkopuls, senior research associate with the S.C. Association of Counties. She knows many councils conduct such evaluations, she said, but her group has never done a statewide survey.
In the tri-county area, Berkeley County's top official, Supervisor Dan Davis, is elected, and is not subject to evaluation by the County Council. Dorchester County Council regularly evaluates Administrator Jason Ward.
Pryor said he's not sure why council's employees haven't been evaluated when all other county employees receive annual performance evaluations.
Pryor, who has served on council for the past 10 years, said at first, he didn't question why council didn't evaluate its employees. "That's just how we did business back then."
But he began pushing Council to conduct evaluations a few years ago, he said. Still, it took a while to create an evaluation procedure. "The process should have been in place a long time ago," Pryor said. "Finally, I got County Council to agree to do this on an annual basis."
Taylor, the county's highest ranking employee, was hired in February 2012 with an annual salary of $167,000. That was bumped up to $180,000 eight months later, when his probationary period expired. He has not had a raise since then, according to county spokesman Shawn Smetana.
County attorney Joe Dawson works on a contract basis. He is not considered a full-time county employee, and does not receive benefits. According to county, Dawson earned about $334,000 in the past year.
Dawson bills the county $18,786 per month, or $225,436 per year, for basic services. In the past year, he also billed the county $63,500 for other legal services, and $45,000 for managing the county's solid waste program, an assignment which ended in December. He also received $1,000 in November, which was given to county employees as a one-time cost-of-living supplement.
Dawson's salary has been a contentious issue among some council members in the past. Several have said that council could hire a competent attorney for a lot less money.
Robert Stewart, the county's internal auditor, earns a $100,776 annual salary.
Pryor said this year marks the first time council will use the process it developed to evaluate its employees, and it might have to modify the system in the future. "There will be glitches," Pryor said, "but this is a starting point."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.