Rockdale BOC says no to $16,000 contractor's pay raise

CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners declined to ratify Tuesday a contract change that would have resulted in a $16,000 raise to a contractor.

The vote was 3-0 with Commissioner Oz Nesbitt making the motion to delete the item that would have increased the salary of Tanesha Lanier, the administrator of the county's Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) to $68,000. The proposed restructuring of her contract with the county would have represented a 30 percent pay raise.

Rockdale County was awarded a $2.7 million grant in March 2009 as part of the federal government's economic stimulus money to purchase, rehabilitate and sell houses in neighborhoods hardest hit by the recent wave of foreclosures.

Lanier is an independent contractor who was hired shortly after the grant award. Her job is to oversee the rehabilitation process among property management firms hired to do the work, match people with houses and coordinate homeowner and personal finance counseling required by the grant.

Commissioner JaNice Van Ness opposed the contract change when it came up during last week's work session. She said county employees, many of whom have not received a pay raise in several years, were concerned about a vendor getting a raise.

"I think that helps with the morale in the community. I've heard from a lot of employees who were, unfortunately, concerned about speaking this morning because of job security," she said Tuesday. "I commend you for thinking of them and deleting that item from the agenda."

Everyone agreed Lanier had done an exceptional job with the NSP. The program has rehabilitated and sold 25 houses and had 40 houses available for sale in 2012.

One county administrator noted after Tuesday's meeting that Lanier's work is credited for the county receiving additional grant funding for the program.

However, Rockdale County resident Jim Roppo told the commissioners that in a bad economy, a large pay raise to a vendor just didn't sit right with a lot of people.

"It's nothing against the person," he said. "From what I can tell she's doing a great job, but I think you send the wrong message to your own employees, you send the wrong message to the property tax payers in Rockdale County and send the wrong message to the voters in Rockdale County in an election year."