SUNBURY - Northumberland County Sheriff Chad A. Reiner says he'll resign effective Jan. 24, citing the controversial decision last year to cut his and other row officers' salaries.

In a letter faxed to local media Wednesday and addressed to county citizens, Reiner, who served for more than nine years, said decisions by "certain county commissioners have forced me to re-evaluate my career on a long-term basis."

"I have an obligation to obtain a salary capable of sustaining my family," Reiner wrote. "As much as I love being your sheriff, family will always come first."

Reiner said his salary, if the pay cuts withstand a court challenge, combined with county-mandated increases in health care insurance costs and his retirement contribution, would be reduced to $15,900 a year before taxes.

"The decision to leave was based solely on securing long-term, stable employment that wouldn't be affected by a new board of commissioners or dependent on the voters every four years," Reiner elaborated by phone later Wednesday.

Reiner, 36, served as chief deputy for four years under Sheriff Charles Berkoski, who passed away in office in May 2004, was appointed to the post by then-Gov. Ed Rendell. He won election to a two-year term in 2005 and was elected again in 2007 and 2011.

Commissioners react

The sheriff's salary was not scheduled to decrease until Jan. 1, 2016, after the 2015 election for the position. It is to drop from $53,834 to $31,000, a decrease of 42.5 percent.

For a family plan, Reiner's cost for health insurance would increase from $241 to $873 a month, or $10,476 a year. He said he contributes $4,600 a year toward his retirement.

Commissioners Stephen Bridy and Vinny Clausi, who voted Oct. 1 in favor of the pay cuts and insurance cost increase, were complimentary of Reiner Tuesday, but disputed his blame on the pay cuts.

"What can I say? He was a good sheriff. I wish him good luck and God bless," Clausi said.

Clausi said he was told by a sheriff's department employee that Reiner has been searching for a federal job for more than a year, indicating Reiner's interest in leaving the office occurred long before the commissioners considered cutting salaries.

Reiner said in a phone interview from his home Wednesday that his search for new employment began recently. He said he has a new job, but did not want to say where in consideration of his family's safety.

"I wish him the best of luck. He was a good sheriff and is a nice gentleman," Bridy said. "We didn't see eye to eye on many issues, but we always looked for the middle ground."

He added, "I think it's a little disingenuous for him to blame the cuts for leaving when he still had two years remaining on his term and under the full salary. I understand his reason for leaving, but the logic is a little misguided."

Shoch, who opposed the salary cuts, said he was sorry to see Reiner leave.

"This is what you are going to be seeing, losing good people who have devoted their time and effort to their jobs being considered 'part time,'" Shoch added. "The only people calling it part time are Commissioners Clausi and Bridy."

Reiner said he will continue to work for the county through Jan. 24.

Controversy, injunction

Reiner's office was embroiled in controversy in early 2010 over accusations that two of his deputies were viewing porn on a regular basis on department computers. The deputies, who were fired for violating the county's computer usage policy without mention of the alleged porn-viewing, sued the county. The case continues.

Salary cuts of 42 to 48 percent planned for five row officers and the commissioners are on hold because of a court injunction prompted by a lawsuit by four of the row officers, including Reiner. Reductions for the coroner and register and recorder were scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. because elections for those officers were held in 2013.

The lawsuit was filed by Reiner, Coroner James F. Kelley, Register and Recorder Mary Zimmerman and Treasurer Kevin Gilroy. The prothonotary/clerk of courts office is also impacted by the cuts, but Justin Dunkelberger, newly elected, took over that post Monday and is not involved in the suit. The controller's salary was not included in the salary cuts; Chris Grayson, also newly elected, started that job Monday.

In addition to the salary cuts, the new policy requires that all row officers pay 50 percent of the county's cost for their health benefits. That change applies to all six row offices when the new terms begin for those offices.