Ques­tions de­lay pol­icy changes

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - TOM SISSOM

BEN­TONVILLE — Ben­ton County’s jus­tices of the peace on Thurs­day tabled a list of per­son­nel pol­icy changes gov­ern­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana, a sick leave bank and other ar­eas un­til the poli­cies are re­viewed by at­tor­neys with the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ar­kan­sas Coun­ties.

The Com­mit­tee of the Whole spent about 90 min­utes de­bat­ing the pol­icy changes be­fore vot­ing to ta­ble the pro­posal.

“As I read through this more things start jump­ing out at me,” Pat Adams, jus­tice of the peace for District 6, said in mak­ing the mo­tion to ta­ble. “I think we ought to just ta­ble this un­til Au­gust so we can hear back from Rain­wa­ter, Holt and Sex­ton.”

The county will have to adopt some pol­icy to ac­com­mo­date the re­cently ap­proved amend­ment al­low­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana use and leg­is­la­tion im­ple­ment­ing the amend­ment, Barb Lud­wig, hu­man re­sources ad­min­is­tra­tor, told the com­mit­tee. Lud­wig said there are many le­gal ques­tions about med­i­cal mar­i­juana

and any pol­icy the county adopts is likely to change.

“There’s a bunch of holes they’re just wait­ing for us to fall through,” Lud­wig said.

Joel Jones, jus­tice of the peace for District 7, said he sees con­flicts be­tween the amend­ment and the leg­is­la­tion.

“I don’t want us to be a test case,” Jones said.

The pro­posed sick leave bank, which al­lows em­ploy­ees to do­nate sick time to a bank for other em­ploy­ees to use, also gen­er­ated ques­tions.

Brent Mey­ers, jus­tice of the peace for District 14, has op­posed the idea since it was pro­posed ear­lier this year and said he con­tin­ues to ob­ject to the idea. Mey­ers said the county will be pay­ing more if the pol­icy is adopted, since em­ploy­ees who don’t use sick time now aren’t paid but the county will pay for do­nated hours.

“We’re now pay­ing for that unused sick time,” Mey­ers said.

Jones said he sees the sick

leave bank as an­other part of the em­ploy­ees’ ben­e­fits pack­age.

“Sick leave is a ben­e­fit we pro­vide em­ploy­ees,” Jones said. “The ben­e­fits pack­age is a draw for the county when we con­tinue to pay them less for most po­si­tions.”

Jones said all of the ben­e­fits have some cost and he ex­pects the “cost” of a sick leave bank will be min­i­mal.

“Ev­ery ben­e­fit we have is a ‘spend,’” Jones said. “We’re spend­ing tax­payer dol­lars to hire and train and to keep them here. I look at it as an­other part of that ben­e­fits pack­age”

An­other area of the pol­icy draw­ing ques­tions was charg­ing em­ploy­ees who leave their jobs after be­ing sent for train­ing at county ex­pense for some part of the cost of the train­ing. Adams said he won­dered if the county could legally do that.

“Are we go­ing to charge them out of their last pay­check,” Adams asked. “I just ques­tion the le­gal­ity of it.”

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