A debate on whether to bump the coroner’s pay ended in a personal attack during an exchange between Douglas County Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones and Commissioner Kelly Robinson.
Robinson told the BOC that he didn’t need the $150,000 allocated for the Veterans Court Housing program, but instead would divide the money, with $36,000 going towards a raise for Coroner Renee Godwin.
Jones said she had spoken with Godwin, and the coroner indicated that she was not seeking a bump in salary at this time.
The BOC was discussing the $2.6 million in fund balance reserves for 2021 Budget Improvement Requests (BIR) during its virtual meeting Tuesday.
Jones’ suggestion of not raising the coroner’s salary didn’t sit too well with Robinson.
“She doesn’t have to prove nothing, she got re-elected like you did,” Robinson said. “I talked to the coroner several times last night. We are right here, we are good. We are talking about $36,000.”
Robinson continued: “Why are you taking a hard position right here in this moment? She is deserving. You know what she do. I don’t see you out there helping her. I don’t see you spotting her. That’s dignity. I don’t know about prior, but that lady has done well by us in what she does. She is not a janitor of humans. OK, really, $36,000. You act like you not no Democrat. What is wrong with you?”
Robinson and Jones are part of a 4-1 Democratic majority on the BOC.
Last month during a finance committee meeting, Jones showed support in giving Godwin an 86% raise. Under Robinson’s proposal, Godwin’s current $33,747 part-time salary would increase to $69,747, a raise of 107%.
Tuesday, however, Jones said she talked with Godwin which led her to rethink her position on the coroner’s salary.
“I’m a Democrat,” Jones shot back at Robinson. “I’m a woman that serves the entire community. We had previously discussed that no one would get a raise in a pandemic. Since we want to get real. I’m a Democrat all day long, and that has nothing to do with my decision on managing a budget. I took an oath to safeguard the budget.”
Several measures on how to spend $2.8 million in budget improvement requests, which included replacing vehicles for the sheriff’s Office, were eventually tabled until the April 19 meeting.
Last month, Godwin asked the county for an increase in pay to $65,000 in 2021, but the finance committee whittled it down to a little over $62,000 to stay within its budget limitation on revisited items to the general budget.
In December, the BOC passed a $98 million budget and stated it would revisit items in March if revenues increased. The BOC has $2,695,294 in Fund Balance Reserves for operating expenses.