Sampson County department heads and managerial staff will have to live within the county, and holding residence outside Sampson may be grounds for dismissal, according to unanimous action by the Board of Commissioners Monday night.
The board approved the proposed amendment to the Personnel Resolution, Section 16, “Residency requirement for county manager, assistant county manager, clerk to the board, finance officer, deputy finance officer and department heads.” the approval came after little discussion and no opposition.
County manager Ed Causey said the amendment was developed by staff at the board’s direction. The amendment is applicable to those individuals filling any of those head positions after the date of the amendment’s adoption Monday, and to those individuals currently residing in Sampson County as of the date of the amendment’s adoption.
Causey said it was merely an add-on to the Personnel resolution, the comprehensive document adopted in June 2011. Establishing a residency requirement for key positions would resolve any misunderstandings in the future, he said.
“I think it’s been an unwritten policy, for which there may have certainly been some confusion,” said Causey, “but we’ve got it clarified and defined where it should end those kind of issues.”
The amendment is contained within Article V of the Personnel Resolution: Conditions of Employment.
As part of the amendment, personnel employed or appointed to those key positions “will be required to establish and maintain residence in Sampson County during their tenure of employment in such positions,” Causey said. The term “residence,” the amendment states, means the actual living quarters.
“Neither voting in the county nor payment of taxes of any kind by employee, by itself, shall be deemed adequate to satisfy the requirements of this section,” the amendment states, “nor shall the provisions of this section be satisfied by the maintaining of a rented room or rooms by an employee solely for the purpose of establishing residency when it appears that the employee’s residence is outside the county.”
Owning real property is “insufficient” if it does not serve as living quarters, the new county mandate notes.
Causey gave an overview of some of the language, and stipulations attached to the now-written rule.
Non-county residents recruited and employed in any of the top county or department head positions will be required as a condition of employment to establish and maintain their actual bona fide residence within the boundaries of the county within 12 months of their official hire. Employment will be deemed conditional until legal residence is established in Sampson.
According to the amendment, additional time over the 12 months can be granted at the discretion of the commissioners. Those currently living in Sampson will be required to stay here during their tenure. Those not adhering to the new rule could be subject to firing if prior permission or authorization is not given.
“A change in legal residency to a location outside Sampson County by personnel holding the position of county manager, assistant county manager, clerk to the board, finance officer, deputy finance officer or department head may constitute grounds for termination of employment,” said Causey, “unless such change in residence is approved in advance by the Board of County Commissioners.”
Commissioner Albert Kirby confirmed the county’s definition of “residency” went beyond the legal one.
“This residency requirement in the policy as proposed is going to be more restrictive than the legal definition of residency,” said Kirby. Causey said that was correct.
“If you’re in those positions — that is if you are a department head or county manager — then you should be in Sampson County,” said Kirby. “Sampson County should have all of you, in other words.”
“Yes,” said Causey.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.