- Article 2F, Chapter 122, which includes G.S. 122-35.36(1), does not attempt to prescribe that a single-county area mental health authority is or is not a department of a county for the majority of purposes; it prescribes the matters on which the authority may act independently and the matters on which the authority is subject to the control of the county.
- Yes, but within the limitations of G.S. 122-35.46.
Prior to the enactment of the new Article 2F, Chapter 122, by the 1977 General Assembly, much consideration had been given and much discussion had been had as to whether a single-county area mental health program was or should be a part of the county. Review of the new statutes reveals that no specific statement of the status of an area mental health authority (the nomenclature which replaces the old term area mental health program) other than the statement in G.S. 122-35.36(1) that:
"An area mental health authority is a local political subdivision of the State except that a single-county area mental health authority shall be considered a department of the county in which it is located for the purposes of Chapter 159 of the General Statutes."
However, the specific areas of independent action or of control by the county have been carefully specified in the new statutes (examples of these provisions are as follows: G.S. 122-35.53 delineates the authority to acquire, lease and take title to property; G.S. 122-35.45 identifies which individuals are employees of the authority; G.S. 122-35.46 vests the responsibility for formulating the salary plan for employees in the authority; G.S. 122-35.49 allows the authority to contract for services; G.S. 122-35.44 deals with reporting the Department of Human Resources and to the county commissioners). From the language in these specific sections as well as the language elsewhere throughout Article 2F it would seem that it was the intent of the legislators to specify the exact relationship between a single-county area mental health authority and the county as to each particular item rather than to promulgate a general edict that the single-county area mental health authority is or is not in general a department of the county.
As to question (2), G.S. 122-35.46 permits a single-county area mental health authority to set the salary plan for its employees with the proviso that the plan shall not exceed the county's salary plan without joint agreement between the area mental health authority and the board of county commissioners. It would appear that the terminology "salary plan" would include not only the rates of hourly or daily pay, but that it would also include the various other fringe elements or benefits entering into the total salary, such as sick and annual leave, hours of work, holidays, etc.
Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General
William F. O'Connell Special Deputy Attorney General