Double Dipping Is Double Dog Bad

I think I can speak for hundreds of Fayetteville and Cumberland County small business owners when I say that in private business when the economy slows down, business is off and unemployment is hovering at nine percent, we automatically go into “survival” mode. This usually means tightening our belts by instituting hiring freezes, reduction of staff, limited operating hours, elimination of, or reduced, benefits and consolidation of staff work loads and responsibilities. No one, except local, state and national governments, of course, would operate “business as usual” if they wanted to survive these harsh economic conditions.

Cumberland County should be no different. County Manager James Martin should be encouraging and mandating that all county department heads and supervisors start demonstrating fi scal responsibility by cutting back and reducing expenses and overhead. The county should not be operating in a “business as usual” mode. I’m a fan of our county manager, James Martin, however, he seems to have become overwhelmed or infl uenced by misguided bureaucratic traditions and logistics if he thinks that hiring back those who have retired and left the county’s employ is actually benefi ting anyone. It surely isn’t helping the county taxpayers nor is it helping those qualifi ed Cumberland County residents who are searching for employment and career opportunities. Even, more importantly, it surely is not helping build or maintain morale among the hundreds of dedicated, committed and hard-working county employees. More on that in a moment.

Commissioner Charles Evans was right for raising this “double dipping” and rehiring practice concern to Martin and the board of county commissioners. Board Chair Kenneth Edge’s position on this topic was quoted in last Friday’s Fayetteville Observer: “We’re tying ourselves down if we put a limit on it.”

Oh, really? Hmmmm. Spoken like a life-long government bureaucrat with little or no experience in business.

Retired employees should actually retire and enjoy their retirement. Secondly, re-hiring and bringing back the “double dippers” stymies loyalty, lowers morale and dampens the enthusiasm of loyal county employees looking to better themselves by moving up and enhancing their careers. Finally, the practice of hiring substitute workers for sick and vacationing personnel is ridiculous and a gross misuse of taxpayers money.

Managers should manage. Why should Cumberland County taxpayers dole out double wages just so a department manager can avoid temporary inconvenience. Few private businesses pay twice for sick and vacationing personnel. When extra help is needed on a short-term basis most call a temppersonnel agency and hire a temporary worker. This has proven to be much more cost effective. Also, and even more to the point, no one retires and leaves a position in 24 hours. Why are managers not making provisions to accommodate such situations?

The 19 county re-hires and double dippers that are costing county residents $422,000 annually are scandalous. The mere fact that we have that much money to squander signals that county leadership and government are not in control. Perfect example: Cumberland County Workforce Development.

Now, back to the “morale” situation. Besides blocking the growth and career advancement of other deserving county employees, it is incomprehensible that the County Manager would turn a blind eye to the recent circumstances and deplorable management that surrounded the Cumberland County Workforce Development Program. A situation so disgraceful and embarrassing that it resulted in the transfer and demotion of its director Cynthia Mixon and the program being transferred to the capable and responsible hands of Fayetteville Technical Community College. It’s not doing much for the morale of county workers to know that the person in charge of overseeing the program and to whom Cynthia Mixon reported to was the Deputy County Manager Juanita Pilgrim. What? Really? And, she was rehired? Yes! Martin awarded and rewarded Pilgrim with a sweet rehire deal of 12 weeks at $60 an hour? Wow! $60 an hour! Some say she never actually moved out of her offi ce. Yet, think of how many part-time employees could be hired at that price. That is, if the purpose was to really get the work done. Taxpayers should be outraged at this reward bestowed on Pilgrim who ill-managed and nearly destroyed a highly valued and much needed county development program.

In difficult times, we all must make difficult decisions. We cannot continue to operate our local government this way. It is abusive. It is my hope that Charles Evans can rally his fellow commissioners to begin applying a practical common sense approach to managing our county and the hard earned money of Cumberland County residents. It’s the right thing to do.

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