Commissioners appeal county row officers' preliminary injunction
SUNBURY - Northumberland County commissioners have appealed the preliminary injunction that temporarily stopped cuts to row officer salaries.
Stephen Bridy, Vinny Clausi and Richard Shoch, named as defendants along with the county, filed the appeal Friday. It follows a Nov. 8 order by Senior Judge David E. Grine of Centre County that temporarily halted the controversial 42- to 48-percent salary cuts for Register and Recorder Mary Zimmerman, Sheriff Chad A. Reiner, Treasurer Kevin P. Gilroy and Coroner James F. Kelley.
It also halts a plan requiring them to pay 50 percent of their health care costs.
On Dec. 3, Grine issued an order that the preliminary objections filed by the county will be decided on written briefs only. That order, which wasn't filed until Tuesday in Northumberland County Court, gives the county 10 days upon receipt of the order to submit a brief. Afterward, attorney Samuel Stretton, representing the row officers, has 10 days to respond. At that time, each party will have five days to submit a short response, if they choose.
Bridy and Clausi initiated the plan to cut the salaries, saying many of the positions aren't full time, and enacted it with a vote on Oct. 1. Shoch was opposed, but he is a defendant because of his role as a commissioner. The four row officers, Zimmerman, Reiner, Gilroy and Kelley, filed the lawsuit Oct. 22.
The coroner's salary would drop from $53,834 to $30,500, prothonotary and register and recorder from $57,396 to $31,000, and sheriff and treasurer from $53,834 to $31,000. Coroner, prothonotary and register and recorder salaries were to change effective Jan. 1, since elections for those positions were just held. The others would change Jan. 1, 2016.
The commissioners' own salaries would drop from $61,000 to $31,500 as part of the plan, effective in 2016 as well. The change did not impact the controller's salary, and the final row office, district attorney, has its salary set by the state.
Clausi and Bridy estimated savings in salary and benefits at $1.4 million over the combined four-year terms of the offices.
The change in health care contributions ups the monthly rates from $108 to $348 for the single plan; $175 to $694 for two-party; and $241 to $873 for family. It applies to all six row offices.
The cuts would take effect after the nearest election for each office: 2014 for coroner, prothonotary and register and recorder; 2016 for commissioners, sheriff and treasurer.
Grine could grant a permanent injunction prohibiting the salary and insurance contribution changes from going into effect, or uphold the commissioners' actions.