WILLIAMSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Martin County officials and the people who live there are worried about pay raises that some commissioners say did not get approved for the county manager.

Commissioner Joe Ayers said he was blindsided and didn’t even know about the raises County Manager James Bennett was receiving. He along with another commissioner and everyone else is asking where the money is coming from and how is it getting approved.

“We just want answers and I don’t think we’re gonna get a good answer quite frankly,” Ayers said.

Ayers said he’s disappointed Bennett’s pay raises weren’t discussed with him and another member of the board. During last week’s meeting, he said some members even refused to answer when the topic was brought up.

Martin County County Manager James Bennett (WNCT photo)

“When we got to that budget amendment I wanted some explanation as to what it was for,” Ayers said. “A hush came over the room and I said I’m not going for this budget amendment without some explanation.”

According to Ayers and public documents, Bennett got two raises this year. Ayers says this is alarming to him.

“Everybody had just gotten a COLA raise this year of two percent and that would’ve taken place in July,” he said. “Then a month later, he gets another four percent raise on top of that.”

Not only one raise but public documents also show Bennett getting a number of other raises since 2021 when he first got into office. Some of those Ayers said he was also unaware of.

“There’s been seven pay raises and he’s been involved in three COLA raises,” Ayers said. “So three were COLA, we know about that, but the other four, we did not know about.”

People who live in Martin County are also concerned. They’re worried about the county’s future and its leadership.

“Nobody can answer that question, who authorized the raises,” said David Richmond, a Martin County resident. “It should be discussed, debated and voted on.”

Some are taking manners into their own hands.

“I have delivered via in-person and certified mail along with the statutes allowing citizens to ask for a personnel file,” Paul Roberson, another resident said. “I want to see Mr. Bennett’s personnel file. The public portion of it, and determine if that sheds any light on who and how these raises were approved.”

Ayers said during the next meeting on September 27, the Martin County Board of Commissioners could vote on the budget amendment after a closed session.

We are still waiting to hear back from Chairman Ronnie Smith and Bennett for comment.