County judge executives have leeway when it comes to their personal staff, but some question the Magoffin County judge executive’s recent appointment of an almost 19-year-old finance officer.
Jimmy Salyer, 18 years old according to his job application, listed that he was a certified welder with a surface mine permit, computer skills and electrical skills when applying for a position at the Magoffin County Fiscal Court in July.
As of November 21, however, Salyer was appointed the position of finance officer for the judge executive’s office at a salary of $27,500, the same pay as the treasurer.
Magoffin County Judge Executive Dr. Charles Hardin defended his decision in interview, reiterating that the appointment is at the discretion of the judge since it is part of his personal staff.
Hardin said he goes by four criteria when hiring a member of his personal staff: a need for the job, a person’s ability to perform the job duties, loyalty to the office, and compatibility with the office staff,
He said the job was required by Kentucky statutes and he felt Salyer was a qualified gentlemen who gets along well with others.
In the Independent’s notes from the January fiscal court meeting, Susie Salyer, Jimmy Salyer’s mother, was listed as the finance officer and Community Center director, however Hardin said in a recent interview that the appointment as finance officer was only temporary until there was a need to permanently fill the position.
The job was never advertised or posted and when the Independent requested all applications taken for the position, only Jimmy Salyer’s application was submitted for records.
“We are not required to advertise the position,” Hardin said. “It’s at my discretion because it is my personal staff.”
Comparatively, Johnson County Judge Executive Tucker Daniel laid out a different protocol for filling the position.
Daniel said, while his office has a finance officer that precedes him in office, he would, as with any opening in his office, advertise the position and would look for credentials of a financial background, preferably with a degree and experience if possible within the salary range. He said there would be drug testing and a background check. Various jobs in his office require passing a skills test.
Similarly, the Morgan County Judge Executive’s office said they have had the same finance officer for almost 35 years and referred all questions about this appointment to the Department for Local Government.
Lynsey Womack-Denney of the Department for Local Government verified that the job of the finance officer is not a statutory position, therefore there are no minimum qualifications or requirements.
“The fiscal court is responsible for establishing the position of finance officer and setting the salary of the position, but the judge executive makes the appointment at will,” Womack-Denney explained further.
According to the 2011 County Budget Preparation and State Local Finance Officer Policy Manual, finance officers are responsible for the following duties: “receive all county claims, then prepare a master claims list to present to the fiscal court; prepare all checks on claims reviewed by the fiscal court; maintain an appropriation ledger; be responsible for county’s quarterly financial statement, pursuant to KRS 68.360; reconcile the appropriation ledger with the treasurer’s appropriation ledger at least once a month; issue purchase orders and maintain a purchase order log; and maintain time records (vacation/sick).”
Hardin said that most of these duties are similar to the treasurer’s responsibilities to work as a system of checks and balances for the office.
At least one Magoffin magistrate disagrees with the appointment.
Pernell “Buck” Lemaster said, “You have a doctor seeking financial advice from a 19-year-old. The judge has the right to appoint whoever and there is nothing we can do about it, but this just shows neglect on his part. He’s making a mockery of Magoffin County.”
Lemaster further explained that he thinks anyone hired into the judge executive’s office should meet the minimum requirement of a criminal check and a drug test.
Despite numerous attempts to contact Magistrates Ronnie Lovely and Gary “Rooster” Risner, the two could not be reached by press time.
Rich Ornstein with the Association of Counties said there is no set criteria for hiring a finance officer, but assured that there is training after the fact, as well as other trainings available.
Jimmy Salyer is the son of Randall Salyer, who was convicted and sentenced to 21 months for buying votes in the 2011 General Election.