Collins: other commissioners 'giving false hope'

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said Wednesday some other commissioners were giving county employees on administrative leave 'false hope' about being able to return to work next week.

Collins spoke to FOX6 News Wednesday after hundreds of county employees called the county's human resources office on Tuesday questioning a letter they received in the mail telling them not to expect to return to work until at least October 10th.  Collins said the letters were mailed last week after discussing the county's financial situation with other commissioners.

"All of the commissioners knew the letters were going out last week," Collins said.

Commissioners Bobby Humphreys and William Bell told FOX6 News they were surprised the letters were mailed out.  Humphreys and Bell said they thought more discussions and a vote would be taken before the letters were mailed out.

Bell also said Wednesday he believed some of the workers on administrative leave without pay could still return to work Monday, but Collins disagreed.

"That is giving false hope that employees could return on September 14th," Collins said.

Commissioners placed more than 1,000 county employees on administrative leave without pay earlier this year to balance its budget after the county's occupational tax was declared illegal.  After the Alabama legislature passed a new occupational tax in August, the employees were originally told they could return to work as early as September 14th.  However, commissioners said without access to money collected earlier this year under the previous tax, there is not enough money to pay the employees on leave until next month at the earliest.

The county commission has asked the judge in the case for access to the money collected under the old tax and is waiting on a decision.  On Tuesday, lawyers for Jefferson County also asked the Alabama Supreme Court to reconsider its decision from two weeks ago which agreed with the judge's ruling.