To The Daily Sun,
Belknap's County's governance is the commission and the delegation. Each is expressly empowered by law(s) established by the Legislature. Not long ago the county form of government (powers) was delineated, essentially upheld in Belknap County Superior Court.
Accordingly, I believe two issues have been and are being brushed aside as business as usual, also defined as habitude: habitual failure to comply with the letter of the law makes it okay.
RSA 24:15 — Exceeding Appropriations — expressly states that no county commissioner, or elected officer, i.e. delegate member, shall agree to pay, or incur any liability for payment of, any sum of money for which the county convention has made no appropriation.
First, the county administrator's contractual agreement, which is reported to have a severance clause which includes that upon termination, the county shall pay one year's salary. The assumption seems to be that in addition to the portion of the annual salary, benefits and accrued vacation, to date of termination, that an additional lump-sum payment equivalent to the yearly amount appropriated in the annual budget for administrator salary line item(s) amount for the applicable fiscal year, could take place.
The fact is this payment cannot take place without the approval of the Executive Committee for a transfer of unencumbered balances of other line items, or a supplemental appropriation of the delegation.
Example: Total cost of employment $150,000. Termination Date July 1. Year-to-date cost of employment $75,000. Per agreement the remainder, lump sum, due is $150,000 — or is it $75,000?
Absent a delegation request for legal opinion, the assumption is that the taxpayers are on the hook for an additional $150,000 annually even if the termination occurred on Dec. 30. According to the law, there is no way an employment contract can compel the delegation to annually appropriate the salary (a fixed regular payment, typically paid on a monthly or biweekly basis but often expressed as an annual sum) of any appointed employee's.
No agreement union or individual contract can mandate, force an appropriation line item amount upon the delegation, the appropriating authority. In the instance of severance pay that is not included in the annual budget and specifically in excess of the annual budget, effectively doubling a salary appropriation in the event of termination.
Think about it. What is the duration of the agreement? Is it automatically renewed? Is non-renewal a termination? If one would shift the termination date back or forward impacting the budget, i.e. more or less does that impact the budget, and by how much? What if the 2016 annual budget appropriation is $50,000 for the salary of administrator? Could the commission, following 2016 budget adoption, make the position part-time or terminated the position in its entirety? Where is the termination amount listed in the budget?
Second, it's reported that the delegation approved the commission's proposed Teamsters' union contract. It is reported that "the contract will have a $14,586.67 impact on this year's budget." This amount exceeds affected line items but cannot exceed the total sum of appropriations in any year made by the Belknap County Convention. Therefore, two situations exist: 1. The Executive Committee must approve the transfers of unencumbered line items to fund the over expenditures involved with the $14,586.67 to which the delegation has no involvement. (RSA 24:15); 2. If the contract in fact results in exceeding the 2015 budget a supplemental appropriation is necessary. Therefore, what exactly took place with a vote by the delegation? Was the annual budget or the related individual line items amounts supplemented by the convention to the sum of $14,568.67? What are the line items numbers? How was the Executive Committee review of transfer in excess of $500 request bypassed? A feel good authentication vote is not an appropriation.
Thomas A. Tardif
- Category: Letters
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