Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Washington County stands firm on opposition to Sneyd pay raise

In the response filed last week to Clerk and Master Brenda Sneyd’s appeal for a 10 percent raise, Washington County stands behind its right to use discretion in awarding supplemental pay increases.
Tennessee Code Annotated 8-24-102, a series of statutory provisions establishing the amount of compensation to be paid various “general officers” of Tennessee counties, states in part “…a county legislative body may provide to a clerk of court who serves more than one court in the county additional compensation in the amount of 10 percent of the clerk’s base compensation.”
The county contends the word “may” confers discretion in awarding additional compensation, while Sneyd argues the statute requires the county to give the raise to all clerks in the same classification.
According to the county’s response, “The statute being evaluated also uses the singular — ‘a clerk of court,’ not ‘clerks’ or ‘all clerks.’ And this is why Judge Kurtz, along with the definition of the word ‘may,’ rejected Ms. Sneyd’s contention that the statute in some way mandates ‘equality of pay among clerks in the same county.’”
Senior Judge Walter C. Kurtz dismissed Sneyd’s lawsuit against the county in August 2011. She filed an appeal last month. Sneyd is seeking the increase effective 2006, the year a 10 percent raise was awarded to Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn.
“It is apparently Ms. Sneyd’s contention that the distinguishing features between her job as Clerk and Master and that of the Circuit Court Clerk do not justify any pay differential,” writes attorney Erick Herrin, counsel for Washington County.
However, several undisputed facts in the record dispel Sneyd’s argument, according to Herrin.
For example, Sneyd supervises 10 employees, is responsible for a budget of $719,000, and oversees the trial docket for a single chancellor in the Chancery and Probate courts, which had 1,246 case filings during 2009-2010.
In comparison, Guinn supervises 35 employees, is responsible for a budget of more than $2 million, and oversees the trial docket of six judges in Circuit, Criminal and General Sessions courts, which had 22,093 case filings during 2009-2010.
The response also points to the additional personal income Sneyd receives through her appointment as a Special Commissioner.
This income “…combined with her statutory salary, has in each and every year relevant to this lawsuit far outpaced the statutory salary and 10 percent supplemental pay received by the officeholder with whom she wishes to be ‘equal,’” the response states.
In reference to her request to have her legal fees paid by the Clerk and Master’s office, Herrin argues, “Ms. Sneyd did not provide to the trial court, nor has she provided to this court, any explanation as to how a raise for herself fits the criteria of the ‘common fund doctrine’ so as to justify the use of public funds for her pursuit of a personal salary increase.”
In his conclusion, Herrin writes, “Senior Judge Walter Kurtz’s Memorandum and Order should be affirmed and the cost of this appeal taxed to Brenda Sneyd, in her individual capacity.”