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Musings: New contract for Clay County Administrator beyond outrageous

For the last year and a half I have been covering the continual conflict and disrespect of the citizens at the Clay County Courthouse. Yesterday I received an email from a source that contained the renewal contract of Clay County Administrator Dean Brookshier. For those that haven’t seen the news story that published last night with the new contract, please click HERE.

The CliffsNotes version is that Brookshier received a 44% increase over his previous contract taking his salary from $102,000 per year to a $149,000 per year. He also gets Cost of Living Adjustments plus the usual Cadillac plan of benefits that only wise public servants are entitled to. In addition, there are numerous changes to the contract that gives Brookshier more authority and requires him to answer to the County Commission less than before.

Clay County citizens should be outraged at both the actions of the two County Commissioners that approved this contract and Mr. Brookshier himself for even accepting the contract. Normally, when it comes to positions like these, I say the recipient of the large government salary should not be to blame, but instead the blame lies on those that grant it and the apathetic public that allows it to continue. In this case, you would have to think that there should be some ethical responsibility in accepting an increase that is only moderately larger than the median household income in Missouri ($50,238 in 2015). But, hey, who would expect the fox to eat less when he finally gets inside the hen house?

The general response to a contract like this is how does it compare to other salaries of equal responsibility in other area governments. I spent some time searching the records of Jackson County this morning thinking that it might provide a good benchmark to look at. Jackson County has a charter form of government, but one can make some comparison points. The “professional” staff is separated into different roles and responsibilities. The best comparison to Brookshier would probably be the Chief Financial Officer, but I was unable to find his contract in their records search. I did come up with the 2015 contract for Mary Lou Brown who is the Chief Administrative Officer of Jackson County. While her areas of direct responsibility differ from Brookshier’s, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that the workload may be comparable. Although, of all the government functions, she does have assessment, collection, and the recorder of deeds office which are parts of government that do see a lot of activity. Suffice it to say, I think we can use her salary here.

Brown pulled in $120,000 per year plus benefits plus COLAs (including an $800 per month car allowance, must be tough driving that luxury car…) in 2015 and 2016 while Brookshier pulled in $102,000 per year plus benefits plus COLAs (including a $500 per month car allowance, still roughing it in the car category).

Comparatively Jackson County is a significantly larger county than Clay County. The total population in Clay County in 2015 was 235,637, Jackson County was 687,623. This makes Jackson 2.91 times larger than Clay yet they paid a public servant with comparable duties only $18,000 more per year (almost 18%). This year Brookshier will receive nearly 24% more than Brown (no more car allowance though, sad Dean Brookshier ūüôĀ ).

Mary Lou, you can reach Mr. Brookshier at 816-407-3656. He might be able to coach you on his negotiating strategy. Although, fair warning, it may involve a lawyer.

What am I talking about?

Inside of Brookshier’s new contract you’ll find some interesting language. In the introductory portion of the contract there are two whereas statements that assert that Brookshier has a colorable claim against the County for creating a hostile work environment and multiple violations of the provisions of his 2015 contract. In section 18 of the contract, Brookshier waves his right to sue the County under a list of various employment regulations.

C’mon man?

Really?

A hostile work environment?

Might that include something like this? You know, that day that you led this cute little attack on Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte about his business cards that were printed in Chinese?

From an observer’s perspective, it seems like one can dish it out, too.

Mr. Nolte simply attempted to hold you accountable this past year for what he felt were actions that were not appropriate. I personally saw nothing wrong with his actions. There’s significant business literature that says conflict is good. But apparently when you work for the government, a little bit of conflict means you lawyer up or threaten to lawyer up, and then land yourself a fat new contract.

Man, I’m in the wrong line of work!

Brookshier will now make nearly three times the annual household income in Missouri and still receive COLAs. The principle behind a COLA is that it’s to adjust for the cost of living for those that need the adjustment. In other words, for someone who makes a median income or less than a median income. These are people that the cost of living (i.e. necessities) have a direct bearing on their ability to survive.¬†Unless you have no financial sense at all, there’s no reason to receive a COLA when you’re making $149,000 a year! The cost of living shouldn’t affect Mr. Brookshier. And if a COLA does affect Mr. Brookshier, one may want to contemplate that contract renewal a little deeper considering he’s the Chief Budget Officer of the County. If you can’t run a household on $149,000 there isn’t a salary large enough for you. Not to mention the fact that a County employee receives incredible benefits plus a guaranteed pension. I assure you there are a lot of us average folk out here that don’t have a guaranteed pension, but hey, we get to pay for yours.

Aside from the financial aspects of the contract, there are also some other concerning portions.

It actually states in the contract that, “No Commissioner may criticize Employee’s performance, publicly or in the press, unless a performance evaluation has occurred in accordance with County ordinance and Employee has been made aware of and had an opportunity to respond to such criticism.”

I fully acknowledge that this is one of the stranger working relationships in the job world. You technically report to a population through elected representatives. Here’s the deal, there are a lot of other job opportunities out there if this is too challenging for you. The America I thought we lived in allows an employee to sell their skills in the job market. You’re not entitled to a job, and who in the heck in their right mind wants to stay in a place that is supposedly hostile?

Only in public “service”….

Part of me wonders if there’s a significant constitutional question about free speech here? This contract literally curtails the public speech of three elected officials.

Also, Mr. Brookshier now has to be told a year in advance that the County intends to non-renew, gains the ability to execute physical modifications to all County facilities, becomes the official record Custodian of Records, no longer is required any involvement in civic organizations, and receives severance pay equivalent to 18 months which is nearly $225,000.

Suffice it to say, the contract is borderline insanity, but for the Commission we’ve come to observe through The Northland News camera, this is pretty much normal behavior. Week after week, I see 2/3 of our Commission pay lip service to respecting the people who pay their salary but continue to make decisions that demonstrate no respect at all.

Frankly, I can’t say I’m shocked. In November of 2016, 34,467 of you sent Ms. Ridgeway back to office and 24,477 of you sent Mr. Owen back to office. Many of you that voted for these people probably did it for two reasons: it was the name you recognized on the ballot or it was the party you identify.

I empathize. I get it. The local news doesn’t really cover the County Courthouse. ¬†When it comes to election time, the amount of information is scarce save for maybe a candidate interview from the local newspaper. I know, I don’t read the newspaper anymore either. I’m doing my part to educate my fellow citizens on the happenings at the Clay County Courthouse. There’s more to do, more to cover, but this requires support from people like you. Consider becoming a supporting reader by clicking HERE.

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About Andrew Palmer