Northumberland County row officers win preliminary injunction
SUNBURY - The row officers who filed a lawsuit against the county after their salaries were cut and their insurance premiums were raised last fall have won a preliminary injunction because the county failed to file a brief on time.
Northumberland County and Commissioners Vinny Clausi, Stephen Bridy and Richard J. Shoch failed to file a brief supporting why a judge should not invoke a preliminary injunction preventing the salary cuts and premium increases by the deadline, which was Wednesday.
Without the brief, the preliminary injunction requested by Chad Reiner, Mary Zimmerman, Kevin P. Gilroy and James F. Kelley will automatically take place.
Attorney for the row officers Samuel C. Stretton, of West Chester, said the next step in the process will be a permanent injunction hearing with a trial judge.
Bridy said the county decided to skip the preliminary injunction process because of the resources it would have taken and because it would not have been presented at a hearing until next year, which would have held up the salary cuts until the 2020 term.
"If we were to file that appeal, it would not have been heard until February," Bridy said Friday. "At that point, it's too late to cut even our own salaries because we have to do it in the year prior."
Stretton said the trial judge hearing for the permanent injunction will not take place for at least 30 days.
He was surprised the county's appeal was withdrawn.
"I would have won that appeal," he declared. "Maybe that's why they withdrew it."
Bridy and Clausi voted Oct. 1 to reduce the salaries of six row offices: county commissioners from $61,000 to $31,500; both the prothonotary and the register and recorder from $57,396 to $31,00; both the sheriff and treasurer from $53,834 to $31,000; coroner from $53,834 to $30,500. Health care contributions were set to rise to 50 percent of the premium. Changes were to take effect following the next election for each office.
Bridy and Clausi project $1.4 million in savings. Shoch opposed the action, but is included in the suit because he is a commissioner.
Coroner James F. Kelley, register and recorder Mary Zimmerman, former sheriff Chad Reiner and treasurer Kevin Gilroy filed for a preliminary injunction that month, which Grine granted on Nov. 8, temporarily halting the majority commissioners' decision for the six row offices.
The salary for the office of controller was not affected and would remain at $56,676. The final row office, district attorney, has its salary set by the state.
Judge David E. Grine filed an opinion on June 30 for the appellate court blasting the logic behind the decision. A final ruling would have been made after the county filed its brief.