Smithfield taxpayers spent over $20,800 to keep interim Town Manager Jim Freeman on the payroll for 10 weeks after the hiring of a new town manager.
Former police chief Michael Scott was hired as the town manager on May 3rd. However, interim town manager Jim Freeman was asked to remain on until July 13th. A decision by the mayor and town council to keep two managers on the payroll simultaneously – Scott the new manager and Freeman the interim – cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in salary, travel, motel rooms, and a cell phone allowance.
Mayor Andy Moore said at the May council meeting he wanted Freeman to assist Scott, who had no town manager experience, with the new fiscal year budget that took effect on July 1st.
After Scott’s hiring, Freeman was paid for 267 hours of work at a rate of $60 per hour, or $16,020. He was reimbursed $2,220.65 for mileage from his home in Troutman, NC to Smithfield. Each mileage check was between $201.91 and $807.41. The Town of Smithfield also paid $1,563.66 for 8 different motel stays at the Sleep Inn & Suites. Each stay ranged from $148.92 to $223.38.
He also received a $1,000 cell phone allowance for the period.
Tim Kerigan, Public Information Officer for the Town of Smithfield, said the town council agreed to keep Freeman on through the budget session. However, no formal vote was taken by the board to cover the $20,804.31 cost.
The town took funds set aside in the General Government, Water/Sewer, and Electric funds to pay salaries to compensate Freeman his $16,020 salary. His cell phone bill was paid out of the general fund. His hotel and mileage costs were paid out of a contractual services line item in the general fund.
Kerigan said it was not uncommon for an interim manager to remain on for a transitional period, “…especially during the final stages of approving an adopted budget.”
Freeman was hired in August 2015 following the firing of former manager Paul Sabiston.