Decision on status of Administrator postponed

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Anderson County Council

By Stan Welch

The most anticipated agenda matter for Anderson County Council during their meeting Tuesday, which involving the interim status of County Administrator Rusty Burns, was delayed until the next meeting.

The cause for the delay in taking action on the recommendation of the personnel committee, which met last Friday, was the absence of that committee’s meeting minutes in the packet provided to the Council before the meeting.

The minutes were not included because the personnel committee met last Friday, almost simultaneously with the preparation and issuance of the agenda. As Councilwoman Cindy Wilson pointed out, it was virtually impossible to include those minutes. “The meeting may have still been underway. The timing just wasn’t there.”

Burns’ status as interim administrator comes up periodically, with concerns being raised about whether a job search for a administrator should be launched. Burns assumed the job as interim administrator in 2009, as a means of stabilizing the county’s administration, following the Joey Preston buyout, and the subsequent hiring and firing of then deputy administrator Michael Cunningham.

Personnel committee member Francis Crowder was upset by the absence of the committee’s minutes, and along with Chairman Dunn, agreed that it would be best to delay any action until the formal recommendation of the committee could be presented.

“There has been so much of the typical Anderson speculation that the Council is trying to slip something by that I would really rather err on the side of being completely open and above board in whatever we do,” said Dunn.

That recommendation is essentially to remove the interim status, and make Burns administrator. No salary increase would be given and no contract would be offered. Burns has consistently expressed his lack of interest in a contract.

Long time County Council incumbent and political war horse Gracie Floyd, from District Two, was at her usual combative best during Tuesday night’s Council meeting.

Floyd, who frequently waves her status as the Council’s sole African American member like a battle flag, was clearly ready for a fight Tuesday night. The spark that set her off came early, during citizens’ comments; when Frank Pressley, a resident of Floyd’s district, approached the microphone and announced his candidacy for the District Two seat, not just in 2016, but in 2018, 2020, and 2022 as well.

Pressley, who is not African American, and who is running as a write in candidate this year, then tried to launch into a tirade against Floyd for dragging his family into the fray. But Council Chairman Tommy Dunn gaveled him down, ruling that the issue was not agenda related and should be delayed until the second citizens’ comments period, when non-agenda items can be addressed.

Pressley responded that Floyd’s nebulous and unstructured agenda item, “news you can use”, with its lack of detail, opens the door for virtually any comment. Dunn eventually relented and Pressley continued to complain that Floyd is, in his opinion, routinely allowed to run roughshod over other members of the Council. He told Dunn that it was his responsibility as Chairman to control the Council members and their conduct. He also repeated his claims that his family has somehow been involved in the campaign rhetoric.

Floyd was clearly upset by Pressley, and when her “news you can use” segment came up, she spent a good portion of it attacking and berating Pressley, as Chairman Dunn sat quietly. She invoked her senior status as one of the two longest reigning incumbents, and warned Pressley that he was messing with the wrong person.

“You don’t want to start anything with me. I am not afraid of you or anyone. You run for this seat as much as you want. But Gracie Floyd is a fighter. So don’t forget that you started this. And as far as your family goes, prove your charges. Like the kids say, put up or shut up!”