SUNBURY - A split vote of the Northumberland County Salary Board has split the job of the chief clerk, dividing the duties among two full-time employees in the commissioners' office until the end of 2015.

John Muncer, assistant solicitor, and Janet Povish, administrative assistant, will share the role on the approval of commissioners Stephen Bridy and Vinny Clausi and controller Christopher Grayson. Commissioner Rick Shoch voted in opposition Tuesday.

Together, Muncer and Povish have nearly 50 years experience working for the county. They replace Gary Steffen, who retired June 6.

Clausi said the move, back-dated to June 2, will save $40,000 annually for Northumberland County. Bridy and Grayson agreed.

The work week of both Muncer and Povish is extended from 33 hours to 43 hours. Their salaries were boosted in kind - $20,000 for Muncer to $85,180 and $15,000 for Povish to $50,833. Steffen's salary and benefits totaled approximately $75,000. Clausi subtracted the salary increases from Steffen's total cost in determining the savings.

Another idea

Shoch announced an alternative Monday that he said would save the county an estimated $105,000, but his candidate, Jerome Alex, no longer wants to transfer from his current county position. Getting the salary board's approval to reduce Muncer's position to part time, a move both Bridy and Clausi opposed, would have been another hurdle.

Eliminating BHID job

After the salary board adjourned, Bridy and Clausi approved a motion during the monthly commissioners' meeting to look into eliminating Alex's position. They said that since he had been agreeable to a transfer, and since the department head was reportedly comfortable in splitting Alex's duties among existing staff, his position as the county's administrating officer of Behavioral Health and Intellectual/Developmental Services is expendable.

"They could do without him, so I'm going direct the chief clerk to do an investigation. If we don't need him, we're going to remove the position," Clausi said.

Shoch said that when Alex was appointed by Clausi in 2012 as director of public safety - a position he held for less than eight months before resigning - his duties were split among department staff before he returned to the job.

"This is, ladies and gentleman, another example of the oppressive regime that we're dealing with right now. Mr. Clausi, if it was his idea to do something like this, he would be praising the employees of the department for being willing to sacrifice and take on the additional work with no additional pay for a period of time for the benefit of Northumberland County," Shoch said.

Close to election

After the meeting, county solicitor Frank Garrigan said that despite state code that says commissioners must appoint a chief clerk, there is leeway to split the duties among active employees.

Kymberley Best, a former county clerk, asked commissioners before their vote to appoint a chief clerk. Or in this case, declare a chief clerk and a deputy clerk. Best announced in October she's seeking election in 2015 to the county board of commissioners.

Clausi said he had six candidates but none wanted the job for various reasons, the upcoming election among them.

If a new majority commissioner board is elected, the position could be turned over, creating a job security issue, Clausi said. That's why Clausi said he asked for an end date for the appointments of Muncer and Povish.

Shoch said Steffen, hired in 2011, accepted the job during an election year. The position of chief clerk had not been advertised internally or publicly. That an expiration date was put on the appointments, Shoch said, was evidence that it is not an ideal solution. He said Clausi only approached people he wanted for the job.

Bridy, who participated via teleconferencing, said the increased hours for Muncer and Povish will keep the commissioners' office open longer and increase access for county employees.

Grayson said it would take at least six months for a new clerk to get acclimated. Clausi said it would take a year. That no one was interested in Clausi's offer could also be a reflection of the atmosphere in Northumberland County and all the pressure associated with the job, Grayson said.

Other business

A motion failed to boost the salary of Elizabeth Onesi, legal secretary for the conflicts counsel department, from $24,119 to $25,974. Bridy and Shoch were opposed. Clausi chided the outcome, saying the 35-year employee deserved better.

Mandy Wagner was unanimously hired to become the children and youth director of social services at a salary of $42,405, effective July 28.

Frey's Commissary, Montoursville, was contracted to provide meal services for clients of the Area Agency on Aging at a cost of $896,000. This amount is approximately $100,000 more than the previous contract due to increased costs of food, Clausi said.

Attorney Robert K. Varano was contracted at a $50 hourly rate to provide consumer legal services to the Area Agency on Aging.

Bridy and Clausi voted not to provide additional funds this year for an assistant district attorney position created in May on a split vote of the salary board. Clausi said District Attorney Tony Rosini earns enough that he should "work a little harder," but that he would consider a part-time position. Shoch voted against the measure, and said such a vote was unnecessary.

Two 2014 Dodge Journeys were approved for purchase from Zimmerman Motors for $25,175 each, and a 2014 Ford Taurus for $22,997 from Sunbury Motors. The Dodges are for the Behavioral Health and Intellectual/Developmental Services Department, and the Ford for Area Agency on Aging.

Shoch abstained from two votes - a letter of support against new emissions regulations for coal-fired power plants and a new policy on the submission of employee status sheets - saying he was never presented any information on the topics. He abstained from two other votes regarding the exoneration of a property in Point Township, citing a conflict since he is that municipality's solicitor.

ServiceMaster Commercial Services was approved to provide cleaning services at the administration building. Clausi opposed the vote, saying it puts county employees out of work.