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Jefferson Co. hires interim administrator

September 29, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Less than a week after the Jefferson County Commission removed longtime County Administrator Leslie Smith, members voted 3-2 Tuesday to hire Sandy Slusher McDonald, a veteran employee in Smith's office, to serve as interim administrator.

Smith, who held the job for 15 years, was earning about $95,000 a year, Commission President Dale Manuel said Tuesday.

Smith, who left the meeting Thursday after she was removed from her postion, has hired local attorney Peter Chakmakian. A severance package was being discussed for Smith, officials have said.

Manuel said earlier this week he expects Smith to consider legal action against the commissioners.

The commissioners agreed to raise McDonald's salary to between $50,000 and $65,000 while she runs the county until a permanent administrator can be hired, a process Manuel said could take three to six months.

The salary range for the person hired permanently would be close to what Smith was earning, he said.

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Commissioners Jim Surkamp, Lyn Widmyer and Frances Morgan voted to oust Smith. Manuel and Commissioner Patsy Noland cast the opposing votes last week.

Tuesday's meeting was a special session called by Manuel for the sole purpose of hiring an interim administrator.

The meeting opened with opposition from Morgan, who complained she had proposed a meeting for Friday morning and that Manuel ignored her request in favor of limiting the choice to McDonald.

Morgan said she wanted a "broader" session that would open the job to other qualified county employees. She referred to the meeting as a "piece of unfairness."

Manuel argued that McDonald, who has worked under Smith for years and knew the system, was the "logical" choice. He was supported by Noland.

All five commissioners openly praised McDonald's work in the administrator's office, her knowledge and pledged to support her in the temporary job.

Widmyer promised to support McDonald "120 percent," yet she joined Morgan in voting against hiring her.

The commissioners said they would take up the issue of policy decisions by the administrator's office at their Oct. 8 meeting.

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