Richland administrator Milton Pope’s evaluation is again overdue, heading into the period when some members of County Council say they should be re-negotiating his contract.
Pope’s $157,500-a-year contract expires in about 3-1/2 months, on June 30.
“I thought we had made a commitment last year that we would have an evaluation done by February,” Councilman Damon Jeter said. “Milton has been, in my opinion, very, very – he’s been a good sport about all this.”
Pope declined comment Friday by email, referring questions to the council that hires him.
Council chairman Kelvin Washington would not discuss the status of the evaluation Thursday. Neither would vice-chairman Greg Pearce.
The council met briefly behind closed doors Tuesday, and Jeter said no decision was made on how to proceed.
Pope’s performance is supposed to be reviewed annually. Still, council has given Pope just one full evaluation since he was promoted to the county’s top job in February 2007.
Jeter said some on the 11-member council are blaming top staff, including Pope, for problems that should be placed at the feet of council members themselves.
Unresolved issues, Jeter noted, include funding bus operations, building a 206-acre tournament park in Northeast Richland and hammering out changes to a city-county fire contract that a city spokesman said Friday expired in January 2008.
“The entire administration is sitting idle because we can’t make any decisions on the tough issues,” Jeter said. “So I fault the council, if you ask me.”
Councilwoman Val Hutchinson said Washington halted the evaluation process, though it’s unclear why.
“I’m ready and willing to do an evaluation,” she said. “I talked to the chair and said I thought we should do one. ... He always says the same thing, like, ‘Stand by.’ So we’re all standing by.”
Councilman Jim Manning referred questions to the chairman, and Councilman Seth Rose would say only that “an evaluation process” for Pope was in the works.
Pope was interim administrator for more than a year before his promotion on a 6-5 vote.
As county administrator, he is the day-to-day manager of the state’s second-largest county, with nearly 2,000 employees. He guides government research and policy, though it’s the elected council that makes the laws.
The council reviewed Pope’s performance the first time in December 2008. Anonymous written questionnaires completed by the council last summer were supposed to be part of a new, two-part evaluation process. The initial results showed Pope hit the day-to-day benchmarks that council set for him.
The new evaluation tool was recommended by University of South Carolina consultants, hired to establish a method of measuring progress toward specific, long-range goals.
Then-chairman Paul Livingston said Pope would be completely evaluated by the end of 2011 but that has not happened.