County employees may return to work Sept. 21

By WBRC staff

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Jefferson County Commission was expected to vote next week to ask more than 1,000 county employees on administrative leave to return to work Sept. 21.

Thursday, in a surprise move, Commissioner Bobby Humphreys presented a resolution asking for  the employees to come back Sept. 21.  Commissioners William Bell and Shelia Smoot supported the resolution, but Commission President Bettye Fine Collins and Commissioner Jim Carns did not, worried the resolution may be illegal.

"I don't know if it's publicity purposes or what it is," Collins said.  "Whatever reason but if they come back on the 21st we will not have the money to pay their salaries."

"Once again this is uncharted waters," said Carns.  "We flew over the cliff not knowing where the bottom is."

Originally the workers were to return on Monday, Sept. 14th, but last week, the county Department of Human Resources sent out letters telling them not to return until October 10th because there was not enough money to pay them.

Thursday, Commissioner Humphryes disagreed with that assessment.

"To me that's unconscionable," said Humphreys.  "I think that although we have a crisis, I think we can make payroll until occupational tax money starts coming in."

Two Jefferson County workers attending Thursday's meeting welcomed the news.

"It's about time somebody stood behind us instead of just talking and telling lies all the time about our jobs," said Micheal Bartee, a Roads and Transportation worker.

"It's better than October 10th," said Lisa Pack, a county employee who has started a Facebook page for Friends of Jefferson County Employees. "The employees will get a paycheck and be able to serve the public again."

The return of workers could also end six hour waits for taxpayers at the courthouses in Birmingham and Bessemer.

"They need to because this line is ridiculous," said Shantell Rose, a taxpayer waiting in line.

Not all county workers currently on administrative leave plan to wait until Sept. 21st. Some told FOX6 News they plan to return to work as originally planned on Monday.

"Because I have a contract to show up for work, said Bartee.  "I'm committed to my contract. I signed a legal piece of paper to go back to work monday morning a six o'clock. I'll be there."

Commissioner Humphryes said workers who show up Monday will be told to go home until the 21st.

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