Time Off meant No Service

Closed door government!

 

 

Closed door decisions vs. Public Interest

By: Pat Hunter

Jan. 11, 2009

 

With a poor economy, people and businesses are doing things differently in order to keep their heads above water. State government, universities and colleges face huge budget cuts. Private businesses must tighten their belts with a freeze on new hires, cut back on employee benefits, furlough employees and trim business fat. How much time off did you get for the holidays from your employer?

 

Working for Loudon County government definitely has its perks. This includes good working hours and generous health insurance. Taxpayers pay about 91 percent of a county employee’s health insurance. Other benefits include dental and life insurance, a state retirement pension and paid holidays.

 

But if you wanted to conduct business at the Courthouse Annex the day after Christmas (Dec. 26) or after New Year’s Day (January 2nd), you were out of luck! Many people learned that the hard way when they arrived at the Courthouse Annex to closed doors and a note on the window.

 

While closing business on two Friday's meant nice long weekends for county employees, this also meant a disruption of public services and an inconvenience to taxpayers. Who authorized closing county government offices disrupting public services when most other people went back to work? Why wasn’t closing for these two working days discussed at an open public meeting?

 

Closed door decisions affect public interest. Citizens couldn’t walk into the Annex and conduct any of the following county business:

·       Pay property tax at the Trustee’s office.

·       Register a vehicle or buy tags at the County Clerk’s office.

·       Record or look up a deed at the Register of Deeds office.

·       Purchase a permit to build or renovate a house at the Codes Enforcement Office.

·       Look up assessment or plat information at the Property Assessor’s office.

 

Employees receive vacation time and sick leave. Commissioners approved 12 paid holidays for regular full-time county employees including News Year's Day (Jan. 1), Christmas Eve (Dec. 24th) and Christmas Day (Dec. 25th). According to county employment rules, an employee will not receive holiday pay unless the employee works the day before and the day after the holidays. Additionally, most employers restrict the number of employees that can take vacation days during anyone period so that doesn't create a disruption to service. Did employees receive pay for these two off days and how was the pay calculated; at what cost to taxpayers?

 

Elected office holders should be more thoughtful of taxpayers other than just at election time. Officials and employees shouldn’t arbitrarily decide to close government operations and disrupt services just because they want extra day offs. Taxpayers don’t have a choice; people must pay property taxes and must purchase car tags (taxes) or face the consequences! 

 

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No public services Jan. 2, 2009  

                                 Justice Center                                    County Office Bldg.

                                            Board of Education-Central Office

 

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01-11-09