Franklin County Clerk Out, County Manager Gets Two-year Contract Extension

Franklin County Commissioners have voted not to renew Elaine Evans’ contract as the Franklin County Clerk.

At the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday evening, the Board voted 3-2 not to renew Evans contract with Commissioners Jason Macomson and Eddie Wester voting against.

Commissioners Ryan Swails, Robert Franklin, along with County Commission Chair Thomas Bridges voted for removing Evans.

Commissioner Macomson made a motion to re-appoint Evans’ as the County Clerk, and implored the Board to reconsider removing her.

“I want to make a motion that we re-appoint Miss Evans as the County Clerk and that we restructure the clerk’s duties and job description and her performance evaluation as proposed in a proposal that I gave you guys and you have copies of that,” he said. “I think that we’re at the end of a long period of uncertainty and a lot of things happened that affects relationships. I think this proposal is an opportunity for us to be able to move forward and give everybody a chance to have a fresh start and do their jobs in a way that benefits the county as a whole.”

“I just implore everybody as you think about considering this proposal, consider what it means, not only to the clerk but to the county and to all our employees,” Macomson continued. “And this is an off-ramp to some tensions that have escalated over the months and gives us a chance to pull back. So, I want to make that motion,” he concluded.

But without any consideration or discussion of Macomson’s proposal, Bridges called for the vote and Evans was voted out of a job.

Immediately after the vote, Bridges asked County Manager Beth Thomas for a recommendation of someone to fill in as interim County Clerk.

Thomas recommended Gina Kesler, who is currently the Franklin County Board of Elections Supervisor and who is also currently in the middle of preparing for a Presidential election year.

On Monday, Evans confirmed to WLHR News that she received a letter from County Attorney Bubba Samuels last Thursday telling her that her presence at the Tuesday Commission meeting was not required.

The Board met last month in executive session and WLHR News has learned Evans re-appointment was discussed, but no vote was taken when the Board came out of executive session.

After the vote Tuesday night,  Macomson read a statement praising Evans for her years of service to the County.

“Now that we’ve voted not to re-appoint her as the County Clerk, I want to say Miss Evans has worked for the County for close to two decades in different capacities,” he began. “I believe she pre-dates all of us. In the three years that I’ve been on the Board she’s always been professional, helpful, and courteous in anything I’ve asked her to do. I know she’s not here tonight, but I want to tell her that I appreciate her service to the County. I think a lot of unfortunate events led us to where we were tonight. I believe in treating everyone with decency and fairness, and I worked very hard, and others did too, to find an equitable solution to a very difficult problem that we could all support.”

“And even though that effort was not successful, I want the county employees and everybody to know that’s the route I would take with every county employee,” Macomson continued. “And I regret that as a Board we couldn’t find a way to preserve her job, and I want to take this time to thank her for her service for the last 20 years or so and wish her well,” he concluded and those attending the meeting applauded.

“I would like to echo Mr. Macomson’s sentiments and I appreciate what Elaine did while she was with this county. I never had any issues with anything I asked her to do,” Commissioner Wester added.

Macomson was referring to the ethics complaint Evans filed last October against County Commission Chair Thomas Bridges and Airport Authority Board Member Bill Flowers.

In the copy of the complaint obtained by WLHR News, Evans said she was  “ambushed” by County Commission Chair Thomas Bridges and Airport Authority Board member Bill Flowers” who came into her office the morning of October14 without prior notice, shut the door barring her from leaving, sat down, and demanded to know why she would not give Flowers, who had recently been named treasurer for the Airport Authority, the Authority’s financial information.

In the complaint, Evans said the incident was part of a pattern of bullying and intimidation by Bridges and Flowers. In their respective written responses, both men denied any wrongdoing, and the Ethics Board voted not to investigate the matter because of a lack of evidence.

In other staff appointments Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners  re-appointed County Attorney Bubba Samuels for another year, and also County Manager Beth Thomas.

Before voting for Thomas, Bridges suggested extending her contract for two more years instead of one.

“Our county manager has another year before her contract runs out, but the commission has talked about the positive job she has been doing, taking the interim position in planning and zoning and so forth. So, I want to hear a motion that we extend her contract for another two years,” Bridges said. “Do I have a motion?

“I make a motion that we extend her contract for two more years,” said Commissioner Ryan Swails.

“Do I have a second?” Bridges asked, but there was only a long silence.

No second?” Bridges asked.

“I second that motion,” Commissioner Robert Franklin finally said.

Commissioners then voted unanimously to extend Thomas’ contract for two more years.