County to redo salary cut vote
SUNBURY - Votes taken last week by Northumberland County commissioners to reduce the salaries of county elected officials are considered null and void because of language in advertisements announcing the event.
Such action must be taken at a "meeting," but the original session was advertised as a "hearing."
A time, date and place for a new voting session has yet to be finalized. Frank Garrigan, county solicitor, said he believes it will be held between 6 and 9 p.m. Oct. 1 at the county administration center.
The commissioners voted 2-1 Sept. 4 to cut the salaries of the offices of coroner, prothonotary, register and recorder, sheriff, treasurer and the commissioners by 42 to 48 percent. The office of controller was left unscathed.
The same voting pattern held to increase health benefits contributions by the office-holders to 50 percent. The changes were to be in effect after the next election for each respective office.
Commissioners Stephen Bridy and Vinny Clausi voted in favor. Commissioner Richard Shoch voted in opposition.
Garrigan said those votes are now nullified.
"I don't want to take anything from the prior (meeting) so we'll just do it all again," he said Tuesday.
A new plan?
Clausi said he'll vote the same.
"I'm staying the same course. I'm not changing anything with my vote," he said.
Bridy wasn't as firm, but he maintained the cuts were "equitable and fair." He said he has mulled over another plan, the details of which he wouldn't reveal. He said he'd bring it up during the upcoming meeting and not before.
"I think it would be a little more fair to the row officers. I'm not certain it's going to have any traction, to be honest," he said. "I'm not even certain I'm going to do it yet."
Shoch said he won't change his vote. In fact, he may not vote at all.
"I frankly doubt that I will be attending this second meeting. I've already gone to the circus once this season," he said.
County officials said Tuesday the language included in the public notice had caused rumblings amongst the row officers and others who found it flawed. That led to further rumblings of lawsuits.
"I knew that they screwed it up," Shoch said.
An agenda he received the day before described the meeting as a "hearing." That language changed to "special meeting" on an agenda he received the night of.
The language was taken from previous versions of an ad published under a "previous regime," Clausi said. When word of a potential discrepancy arose, he turned to the solicitor.
To play it safe, to get the procedure correct and to avoid a lawsuit, Bridy and Clausi say they'll take another vote.
"Once we heard they were going to challenge the meeting, we wanted to make sure we do everything we can so it gets fixed so that the taxpayers don't get sued come Jan. 1," Bridy said. "We just can't afford it."
Mary Zimmerman, register and recorder, said she hasn't been contacted by the commissioners at all throughout this process. She'd heard of the rescheduled meeting when contacted by another media outlet on Monday.
"I'm just assuming the vote's going to be the same. To be honest with you, I haven't comprehended the first time what the votes will mean to me personally let alone the second time," she said.
At a glance
A look at the changes to salaries and health benefits for county row officers that were approved Sept. 4 and since nullified (position; current and reduced salary and reduction percentage; who's serving; year new salary is effective, which follows the election for each respective office):
- County commissioners: $61,000 to $31,500; 48.4 percent;; Stephen Bridy, Vinny Clausi and Richard Shoch; 2016.
- Coroner: $53,834 to $30,500; 43.4 percent; James F. Kelley; 2014.
- Prothonotary: $57,396 to $31,000; 46 percent; Kathleen Strausser; 2014.
- Register and recorder: $57,396 to $31,000; 46 percent; Mary Zimmerman; 2014.
- Sheriff: $53,834 to $31,000; 42.5 percent; Chad Reiner; 2016.
- Treasurer: $53,834 to $31,000; Kevin Gilroy; 2016.
- Controller: $56,676; unchanged; Tony Phillips.
- District attorney: $172,270; unchanged (state sets salaries for district attorneys); Tony Rosini.
Health care: All elected officials would be required to pay 50 percent of the cost of health insurance beginning with their new term.
Single plan: $347.88 per month (up from $108); $4,174.56 per year.
Two-party: $694.32 (up from $175); $8,331.84 per year.
Family: $872.97 (up from $241); $10,475.64 per year.