Judge uses strong language in rejecting appeal of row officer lawsuit injunction
SUNBURY — A scathing opinion accompanied a senior judge’s order to toss Northumberland County’s appeal of a preliminary injunction granted to row officers who are fighting to prevent last fall’s majority decision by the commissioners to slash their salaries between 40 and 45 percent.
Issued Monday and filed Thursday in the county prothonotary’s office, Senior Judge David E. Grine wrote that the salary reductions, which he described as “startling,” and accompanying increased cost of health insurance caused “serious harm” to the affected office holders. He added that what also must be considered is the potential impact on the offices themselves.
“The reference in the testimony that suggested that a public servant was little more than an hourly worker in the service industry not only suggests profound ignorance of the responsibilities of the office, but a lack of a full appreciation of American history — a history which, unique to other countries in the world, rests solely on the blood and sweat of public servants,” Grine wrote.
“The county code was enacted to offer guidance to local governments, but it also was intended to provide protection to public servants. In no other forum is the necessity of that protection as evident as the forum presented to this court on Nov. 8, 2013.”
That was the date Grine granted a preliminary injunction to coroner James F. Kelley, register and recorder Mary Zimmerman, former sheriff Chad Reiner and treasurer Kevin Gilroy. The four filed a civil lawsuit in October following a decision that month by commissioners Stephen Bridy and Vinny Clausi to slash their salaries and that of the offices of county prothonotary and the commissioners. Health care contributions were set to rise to 50 percent of the premium. Commissioner Rick Shoch opposed. Changes were to take effect following the next election for each office. The injunction stalled the action and Grine’s decision will allow the row officers’ lawsuit to move forward in the Court of Common Pleas.
For more on the judge’s decision, read Friday’s print and online editions of The News-Item.