After some wrangling over the Freedom of Information Act, Berkeley County Council voted Thursday to give employees a "one-time disbursement," or holiday bonus, excluding themselves from the payout.
On Dec. 16, full-time employees will receive $500 and part-time employees will get 1 percent of their pay. Temporary employees and interns will receive $25 to $100, depending on their status.
County Supervisor Dan Davis said he didn't put the issues on the agenda for Monday's regular meeting "to keep the stir among employees down."
But when the issue came up, Councilman Tim Callanan objected, preventing council from discussing it and requiring Thursday's special meeting.
"I've got no problem with direct hires being given the bonus, but I think we need to be extra cautious when it comes to notifying the public, and I don't think we've gone that route," Callanan said Monday. "If you didn't put it on the agenda ... that did in fact violate FOIA because you're not giving people the opportunity to read the agenda in advance to see what's on it. I know it's an inconvenience, but I just think that we owe it to the public."
Callanan also objected to elected officials receiving the bonuses.
County employees have not received raises since a 1.5 percent adjustment in July 2010, said Deputy County Supervisor Kace L. Smith. The bonus is to "acknowledge the loyalty, service and dedication of Berkeley County employees," according to the resolution.
At the special meeting in the supervisor's conference room, Councilman
Steve Davis proposed that council members not receive the bonus and Dan Davis requested that his position of supervisor be added to the exclusion.
Councilman Dennis Fish wanted to exclude all elected officials, but his motion failed. He later cast the only vote against the resolution for the bonuses.
"Elected officials should not receive bonuses," Fish said after the meeting. "I think the law is very clear you cannot change salaries after they take office."
The original motion also gave employees who make more than $50,001 a year up to $750, but Councilman Jack Schurlknight proposed limiting it to $500 for all full-time permanent employees. Council unanimously agreed.
After the meeting, Schurl-knight said, "This is not only a Christmas bonus but it's a reward to employees for them tightening their belts. I would love to give 10 percent if we could, but we can't give the farm away, so I'm glad we can give them a few dollars at Christmas."
After the meeting, Callanan, who attended via telephone, said via e-mail, "I appreciate the council members for changing their minds about paying themselves bonuses and doing the right thing but it's important to note that the Supervisor originally proposed giving himself a bonus and the same individuals who voted to strip council of bonuses today (Mr. Call, Mr. Davis and Mr. Schurlknight) voted to give themselves bonuses in committee. The difference, this time the lights were on."