Cole County approves back pay for elected officials

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JEFFERSON CITY – The Cole County Commission approved back pay for elected officials Tuesday – a move that is estimated to cost almost $500,000.

The decision comes after local attorneys discovered a 2007 state statute that had been ignored by Cole County. The law sets a base salary for elected officials, a standard that the county was well below.

“We were just kind of ignorant to the fact that we weren’t paying what we were supposed to be paying,” said Cole County Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman.

Cole County will only owe officials for work done since 2011 due to a five-year statute of limitations. According to Bushman, most officials will only make a few thousand dollars more a year, but the decision will bring commissioners up to a full-time salary.

“There will be some payment out to current and past elected officials that are within that five-year window,” Bushman said.

The exact estimate for the pay out, which includes the cost of benefits, is $483,182.54. But the county will remain well below what many counties pay their elected officials.

“People are just saying, ‘Hey you gave yourself a raise.’ We really didn’t. We’re just trying to do right by all those officials,” Bushman said.

Funds for the pay out will be included in the county’s 2017 budget. Money appropriated for this year will not be affected.