LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Commissioners refined its county manager evaluation process on Tuesday, with commissioners saying they want to “take the politics” out of the performance assessment.
“You can’t do a job if you don’t know what is expected of you,” said Commissioner John Cooley during a meeting that lasted nearly four hours.
The new evaluation will lend objectivity to what, in the past, has been a subjective appraisal, said Chairman Guy McCook.
“With these changes, (County Manager Kevin Patterson) will simply be asked to show that he’s done the things that were laid out,” McCook said. “(The new assessment) is much more fair to him and he can actually show us what he has done rather than relying on anecdotal measures.”
Patterson initiated the process to enhance his evaluation earlier this year.
“I have had one formal evaluation in the last six years,” Patterson said. “So this is a starting point toward (a regular evaluation).”
Over the next month, the commissioners will individually prioritize long-and-short-term goals they each presented on Tuesday, including increasing the county’s tax collection rate; enacting a waiting period for scrap metal purchases to allow stolen property to be recovered; facilities and maintenance improvement; enhancing the county’s customer service and purchasing new emergency vehicles.
“The important thing is that we decide on these (measures),” Commissioner Whit Gibson said. “The board might not always be the same, but the evaluation program will provide the consistency, not the board.”
The board agreed that Patterson would not be held accountable for any change to the county’s high tax rate, with McCook saying that would be the board’s responsibility.
Gibson said “a reasonable, longer-term goal might be to increase our fund balance by two percent,” adding that increasing tax collection rates is something Patterson should work on.
Cooley provided a specific goal of personal interest to himself, suggesting that Patterson draft legislation installing an extended, 10-day waiting period for scrap metal purchases.
“I had a piece of equipment that was stolen on my property,” Cooley said. “It went to the scrapyard on Friday, cut up on Monday … and I find out about it a week later, when it’s already scrapped.
“These rogues can just sell copper for instant cash now. If they get it to the scrapyard and they cut it up, they’re home free.”
Commissioner Carol McCall said that facilities maintenance and improvement should be added to the list as well.
“There are (places) I’m not sure we would want the public seeing, even if they are clean,” McCall said.
Patterson said enhancing the county’s customer service could come down to the use of surveys, or a secret-shopper program.
“We will look to improve our customer service entity-wide,” he said.
Patterson said the county needs to include in next year’s budget the purchase of a new fire truck and ambulance.
“We also need to take a hard look at law enforcement (vehicles),” he said.
The county is currently paying for new vehicles purchased in March after they were mistakenly ordered by a Sheriff’s Office official, but there is still a need for new vehicles.
The commissioners will now take home the list of goals and prioritize them on a one-to-five scale. Patterson’s final assessment will be formed based on that scoring.
A standard “360 evaluation” that will invite self-assessment as well as assessment from the board, will also be implemented, Patterson said.
“A manager is only going to be as strong as his board,” said Commissioner Carol McCall. “This was the right thing to do for now and for the future.”