Board Extends Giles' Contract

Published 5:21 pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

CUMBERLAND – After returning from a brief closed session near the beginning of January's meeting, the Cumberland Board of Supervisors voted to extend the contract of County Administrator and Attorney Vivian Giles for an additional two years.

What proved to be a contentious decision last year continues to be so, with Supervisors Kevin Ingle, District Three, David Meinhard, District Four, and Lloyd Banks, District Two, all voting in favor of the motion. All three members had also voted to approve Giles' original contract last March. Supervisors Parker Wheeler, District Five, and Bill Osl, District One, who had voted to oppose Giles' original contract at that time, also voted against extending it.

Meinhard, who was reelected as chairman during January's meeting, later clarified to The Herald that “it was a vote to extend her contract if she wants to accept it.

Email newsletter signup

“Basically, the three members of the board are in agreement that we want her back and are offering her a contract and if she tells us it is satisfactory… then everything is fine and we're going on.”

Last January, with the imminent retirement of Judy Ownby, the county administrator for the previous 14 years, and the termination of a legal services agreement with Estes & Associates, the County found itself in the position of needing to fill both positions.

After the board voted to hire Giles as the county administrator, she submitted a counter offer, which Chairman Meinhard explained to The Herald at the time rejected the single position but offered to work the two combined positions for less than double the cost of just the administrator position.

Combining To Cut Costs

Costs savings was cited by supportive board members as a reason for hiring Giles for both positions during last year's discussion of her contract. Giles was hired in March with a salary of $135,000, according to Finance Director Howard Paras.

In an earlier attempt to reduce legal fees, Cumberland had entered into a modified legal services agreement with Estes & Associates in July, 2011, starting with a flat rate of approximately $189,000, reducing the original amount budgeted by $100,000.

During the previous fiscal year, Cumberland had paid Estes & Associates $267,982.98 for legal services, according to Paras.

When the board approved the modified agreement, then-County Administrator Judy Ownby explained to The Herald that the agreement included a set amount of limited services with additional services, if needed, to be completed at a fee of $285 an hour. A year ago, during its January meeting, the board voted to terminate that agreement.

During the partial year of service completed by Estes & Associates using the modified legal services agreement, the County was billed more than $45,000 for additional projects beyond the monthly invoices toward the flat rate, according to invoice data shared by Giles.

During the discussion of the original contract and combining the two positions, Osl claimed that there were candidates for the role of county attorney that could have also brought significant savings to the county.

As the County Administrator, Ownby's final salary was $83,028, according to Paras.

This month's extension of Giles' contract also includes a salary increase of $7,763 due to a required contribution increase to the Virginia Retirement System.

Paras explained in an email to The Herald that when the employee portion of the Virginia Retirement System was raised by five percent the County was required to match that five percent increase. Therefore, he wrote, both the Virginia Retirement System and salary numbers were increased.

Giles also explained that the proportional salary increase went into effect for all county employees at the same rate. Because her original contract was made before the increase, the increase is now being calculated into her salary.

Reviewing Performance

Immediately following Bank's motion to renew Giles' contract for two years, Wheeler stated his opposition, saying he thought “due to the circumstances that we discussed in closed session, until this matter is resolved that this contract should not be renewed.”

Osl also expressed his opposition, stating he felt that the board should discuss Giles' performance in relation to the contract before a new contract is approved.

During the discussion, both Banks and Meinhard took the opportunity to commend Giles' performance in the combined position.

Banks commented, “Mrs. Giles has been on the job for nearly eleven months and in my opinion has done an exceptional job at half of the cost of the previous administrator and attorney. I believe it would be wise for us to extend her contract and demonstrate some level of gratitude for her services to the County.”

He went on to commend her work through difficult situations, concluding, “I believe we've seen a number of personnel who have left and we've yet to see a reduction in services.” He also stated that he felt every board member has had the opportunity to give either a verbal or written performance review.

Osl clarified that his primary concern was that the board, as Giles' supervisors, perform a collective performance review before it takes action on extending her contract.

In response to Osl's suggestion, Ingle pointed out that waiting until February would put the board in a tight position if Giles declined the County's offer and they were forced to seek a replacement by the end of her original contract, March 31.

Meinhard said that after working with Giles for almost a year he believes, “she has done an outstanding job as our administrator/attorney, under some very adverse and difficult circumstances. I have to wholeheartedly support extending her contract.” He then asked if there was a call for the vote. Hearing none, he called for the question himself and the board voted three to two, extending the contract.

Later, during board member comments, Osl suggested, “we might want to think a little bit more, as a board, about being a bit more proactive. At least three times, …during the course of this year, I've heard issues that we can't take more time to do something because we're up against the clock.” He referenced the procurement of the school trailer, the refinancing of loans and the extension of Giles' contract that night.

He suggested that if January was the time for something to be completed, the board should have handled reviews a few months earlier, “so that all of a sudden we don't have to make the last minute decision without …giving due diligence to it as a board. I think we need to do a bit more proactive planning in that regard.”