Woodford County

Woodford clerk takes back daughter-in-law's $5,000 raise

VERSAILLES — In the wake of questions posed by Woodford Fiscal Court, Woodford County Clerk Judie Woolums said she has amended her 2009 budget and scrapped a $5,000 raise for a deputy who is her daughter-in-law.

The now-eliminated $5,000 raise would have been on top of a $5,500 salary increase that the daughter-in-law, Karin Woolums, received in September, according to county records the Herald-Leader received after an Open Records request.

The raise boosted Karin Woolums' salary from $38,200 to $43,700, according to county records. Had the latest $5,000 been approved, Woolums' salary would have been $48,700. Documents show the 2008 salaries of the other clerks range from $32,000 to $38,000.

In an interview Monday, Judie Woolums, who says she makes about $75,000, denied that any nepotism or favoritism was involved.

"That had nothing to do with it," Judie Woolums said. "Karin is a deputy just like all the rest of them are."

Judie Woolums said she had wanted to give her daughter-in-law a bigger raise "because Karin has a lot more responsibility than what she used to have. ... She has a lot more responsibility on her shoulders."

The clerk's budget is on the agenda for a 7 p.m. Tuesday meeting of the fiscal court at the courthouse.

On Jan. 13, the fiscal court approved the county clerk's $510,000 budget, which included raises for eight deputies in the office. Later, Woolums prepared a list of deputies and their yearly salaries to assist the personnel administrator in preparation of the payroll.

But the yearly salaries on that list differed from the approved raises of $1,000 per deputy for a total of $8,000. So on Jan. 20, during a special meeting, the fiscal court magistrates voted to set aside their previous approval of the clerk's budget.

"When we approve a line item for salaries, we expect the department head or the constitutional officer to do that," said Magistrate Jim Staples. "And she didn't. We thought the line item she had in there would comply with the $1,000 (per deputy) and it didn't, and that's why we rescinded the budget."

Magistrate Ellen Gormley said Judie Woolums' actions "may not have been intentionally deceptive, but there are policies and procedures in place that need to be followed before that much money is handed out."

"I didn't mean to deceive anybody," Judie Woolums said. "I thought that's how I could do it" according to state law.

Woolums is entitled to set the number of deputies and each deputy's individual salary. But fiscal court approves the total dollars from which the clerk sets those salaries.

In approving that total amount, the fiscal court is entitled to know, before approving a budget, how the money will be spent.

Judie Woolums said she has worked in the clerk's office since 1983 and Karin Woolums has worked there since 1990. Judie Woolums has been county clerk since Sept. 1, when she succeeded her sister-in-law, Corine Woolums, who retired.

Judie Woolums said that, in order to save taxpayer dollars, she did not fill a ninth deputy's position and added responsibilities among her staff.

"I'm trying to cut so it would save the county. And then by doing that, I get my head on the chopping block," Judie Woolums said. "I'm not trying to be partial to anybody. I'm trying to be just as fair to the girls as I can be."