Clay County commission to approve budget that includes back pay for employee

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LIBERTY, Mo. — A Clay County employee will finally get the back pay she’s waited nearly two years to receive. 

Two former Clay County Commissioners and former assistant county administrator Nicole Brown refused to pay part-time employee Penny Banhart for the extra 20 hours a week she worked in 2019 for the Board of Equalization (BOE). 

But newly elected commissioners Megan Thompson and Jon Carpenter voted Thursday to include those overdue payments to Banhart in the county’s 2021 budget.  

“It’s wonderful,” Banhart said. “I’m needing to buy a new car and am thinking that I can now make a good down-payment.””

In all, Barnhart will receive $4,613 in back pay. 

“This issue is very near and dear to my heart,” Thompson said during the meeting. “This employee deserves to be compensated for the hours she worked.”

The pay dispute started in May 2019 when Thompson, the former county clerk, hired Banhart to temporarily work an extra 20 hours a week for the BOE. The BOE hears appeals from taxpayers about their new property assessments.  

“This was a new — a reassessment year,” Banhart said at the time. “People’s taxes went up. Some people are saying up as much as 50%. So those people are going to appeal.”

Banhart worked full-time — 20 hours in the clerk’s office and 20 hours for BOE – for a three-month period. She received her same salary of $14 an hour for the additional hours she worked. 

Brown and the commission, however, wanted Thompson to hire a BOE clerk through an outside temp service. Commissioners allocated $18,900 for a temp agency’s services.  

But Thompson argued that it wasted taxpayers’ money to use a temp agency. She said such action would cost the county $20 an hour — $14 an hour for the employee and $6 for the temp agency. 

She hired Banhart instead. 

“This was the best decision,” Thompson told FOX4 in 2019. “I don’t know why they would be so angry about me and my office saving the county thousands of dollars by taking the fiscally responsible route.”

Thompson also said she had money in her budget to pay Banhart for the extra hours she worked. 

“We have money in there,” she said. “There was no reason for them not to pay Penny her full paycheck. There was no reason for that. I made that very clear to them.” 

Despite the county’s refusal to pay her, Banhart continued to work as a BOE clerk.

“People asked me why I kept working,” Banhart said. “I did it because it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do for my department and for the citizens of Clay County.”

“We had a record number of appeals in 2019,” she added. “And there was no way the BOE could have done all that without me putting in those extra hours.”

Thompson continually pushed for the county to pay Banhart, but the commission and Brown refused. 

When she ran for former commissioner LuAnn Ridgeway’s seat, Thompson vowed that – if elected – she’d fight to ensure that Banhart received her back pay. 

“She’s keeping her word to me and that says a lot,” said Banhart, who is now a full-time employee in the clerk’s office. “And to get this done in 21 days is amazing.”

County commissioners officially vote on a 2021 budget next week. Once approved, Banhart should finally receive her back pay. 

“If you do what’s right,” Banhart said, “It eventually comes back to you.” 

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