Jefferson County workers turned away

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A large number of county employees currently on administrative leave without pay were turned away Monday morning as they tried to return to work.

Lisa Pack, one of the 1,000 county workers currently on leave and founder of the "Friends of Jefferson County Employees" page on Facebook, told FOX6 News a large number of employees tried to return to work Monday morning, but were turned away.

Pack said the county got supervisors to sign letters Monday morning, saying the employees tried to return to work, but were turned away.

Monday was the original date set by Jefferson County for employees to return to work after being placed on leave in early August.  However, Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said last week it would be October at the earliest before the county would have enough money to bring the workers back.

Commissioners Bobby Humphreys, William Bell and Sheila Smoot signed a petition last week requesting the employees be brought back to work on Monday, September 21.  Collins and Commissioner Jim Carns refused to sign the petition, saying bringing back the workers without money to pay them could be illegal.

A vote on that petition is scheduled to be held on Tuesday.

A letter was sent out late last week to all county department heads, telling them they could be criminally liable if they brought in workers on leave and the county is unable to pay them.

Earlier this year, a judge declared the county's occupational tax unconstitutional.  After losing appeals on the ruling, the county closed its satellite courthouses and placed 1,000 workers on leave in August as part of its efforts to balance its budget without the tax revenue.

The Alabama Legislature passed a new occupational tax in mid-August and authorized money collected under the old tax, but revenue collected under that old tax was frozen by the judge.  The county has asked the judge to release the tax money now that the state legislature has passed the new occupational tax.

In the meantime, the county began negotiations two weeks ago with Regions Bank to obtain a $25 million bridge loan to be used to bring the county employees back sooner.  Negotiations over that loan were continuing.