March 26, 2020 at 4:09 PM EDT – Updated March 27 at 10:56 AM
PENDER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – State Representative Carson Smith will earn $10,000 a month in his temporary role as county emergency management coordinator, which is 50% higher than his predecessor, according to public information released Thursday.
Smith was appointed interim head of Pender Emergency Management in a meeting of the Board of Commissioners Wednesday evening. The move took place after the sudden resignation of Charles “Chuck” Tear on Tuesday. Tear had only served as director since January of this year.
Smith’s contract (which can be viewed in full at the bottom of this story) spells out that he’ll receive $10,000 a month for a period of at least 4 months, which is the initial term of the contract. By comparison, Tear was making an annual salary of $80,035.48. The contract spells out that Rep. Smith is “exceptionally qualified” given his extensive experience in Pender County as one-time emergency management coordinator and the sheriff. Smith was sheriff of the county from 2002 until 2018, when he decided to step away to run for state office in Raleigh. Smith currently represents NC District 16, which includes Columbus and Pender counties.
It’s worth noting that Tear was a county employee, entitling him to health benefits in addition to his base salary. Smith is a contract worker, therefore, there are no benefits and he will have to pay taxes on the contract payments.
Rep. Smith will be allowed to continue his role as a representative in Raleigh, according to NCGS 128-1.1.b, which states that an elected official may concurrently hold one other appointed position in state or local government. The agreement between the county and Smith acknowledges that he may need to spend time in Raleigh during his tenure as emergency management coordinator, so he will be allowed to set his hours. However, commissioners reserve the right to raise concerns if they don’t feel the duties are being fulfilled.
“As an example, should Smith be required to self-quarantine for a period of time, the Parties might agree to suspend this contract, or modify its terms,” the agreement states in an apparent reference to the novel coronavirus pandemic. “In the event County determines, in its sole discretion, that Smith has been unable to fulfill his duties it may terminate this Agreement without further responsibility on either Party.”
While rare, it’s not completely unusual for our local elected representatives to try to serve multiple roles. In 2013, then-State Representative Susi Hamilton announced her intentions to serve as the Town Manager for Carolina Beach, while maintaining her position in Raleigh. In that situation, though, Hamilton was overruled. North Carolina General statutes specifically forbid a city manager from serving in elected office at the same time. In that situation, Hamilton chose to stay in her House seat.
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