County renews manager’s contract

By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ Staff Writer

Curry County commissioners voted Wednesday morning to issue a four-year contract to County Manager Geneva Cooper.

All commissioners except Ed Perales voted for the renewal.

A person answering the telephone at his business who identified himself as Perales’ son said Perales would not comment.

County Attorney Steve Doerr said the existing contract was “technically in force for another year,” but he recommended changing it.

A three-year contract issued in May 2001 was automatically renewed for a one-year term on July 1 of this year because neither Cooper nor the commission delivered a notice of non-renewal by March 30.

“I couldn’t find anything saying that automatic renewal process was unethical or illegal or anything, but I did think it was something that should be decided by the commission in a public meeting,” Doerr said. “I would recommend that if you pass this motion, that the automatic renewal provision not be in there.”

Cooper told commissioners the language submitted in 2001 was taken from a contract in another county and she had not anticipated problems.

She earned $62,897.50 in 2003, county records show, and is scheduled to receive $64,272 in fiscal year 2003-04.

According to the contract approved Wednesday, Cooper receives the entire balance of the contract in a lump sum if she is terminated unless the county terminates her for just cause.

“Basically all that happened with the contract was to avoid the issue of whether it should come up for review every year, just make it a four-year contract so there won’t be any annual renew required by the commission,” Commissioner Tim Ashley said.

Doerr advised commissioners the county could decide to institute a performance review at any time and that review didn’t need to be specified in the contract.