Board to Continue Deliberating Salaries for Judicial Secretaries, GIS Director
CLEARFIELD – Clearfield County’s salary board couldn’t reach a consensus on the salaries for two judicial secretaries and the GIS Director during Thursday’s meeting. The board will resume deliberations at 11 a.m. today at the Clearfield County Administrative Offices.
During the meeting, board chairperson Joan Robinson-McMillen sought action on the salaries for the county’s salaried employees. Controller Tony Scotto made a motion to approve all with the exception of the two judicial secretaries and the GIS Director. However, his motion died after failing to gain a second.
Board member John A. Sobel followed with a motion to approve all salaried employees as presented in the 2013 budget. When no one immediately seconded the motion, Robinson-McMillen asked if she, as the chairperson, could second the motion. County Solicitor Kim Kesner said she could, which Robinson-McMillen did.
When this motion was voted upon, the board deadlocked, 2-2. Board members Robinson-McMillen and Sobel voted in favor. Scotto and board member Mark B. McCracken opposed the same. Scotto said that Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman couldn’t vote on the entire list of salaried employees.
Ammerman said if the board was trying to approve his secretary’s salary at its current level, his vote would be no. Scotto said he disapproved of the judicial secretaries getting a pay raise in the amount of $2,500, a 10 percent increase over last year.
“I would like some discussion on the judicial secretaries’ raises and that for GIS, as compared to everyone else who gets a cookie cutter raise,” said Scotto. “Everyone normally gets a $750 raise.”
Ammerman said they had previously agreed upon a $3,000 salary increase for his secretary for 2013. Robinson-McMillen said it was only budgeted at $2,500 for each judicial secretary. Ammerman said they had cut funding for Teen Court by half and had planned to move that over to the secretary’s salary.
“So, it wasn’t costing anything more out of our budget,” said Ammerman.
Robinson-McMillen said both judicial secretaries had picked up extra duties. She said that Ammerman’s secretary had been assisting with the paperwork involved in helping move prisoners from out of the jail and into state institutions, which saves the county money. She said that Judge Paul E. Cherry’s secretary has been assisting with custody conferences. So far as the GIS Director, she said he’s now handling the Marcellus Shale Impact Fee reporting.
Scotto said that many county departments have incurred extra duties, especially in clerical positions. Although the judicial secreatries are getting more workload, he said so are other employees, and “they’re stuck at the same rate.” He said the GIS Director was a department head with more responsibilities, and his proposed pay raise was only at 4 percent.
Ammerman said he found it interesting that they had previously discussed the matter and reached an apparent agreement, which doesn’t seem to be the case. McCracken said the judicial secretaries could be separated and voted a part from the complete list of salaried employees to which Sobel said would have to be done.
Kesner said there could be separate motions for each salaried position. However, he said it wasn’t his duty to advise them how to proceed, as that was up to the individual board members and the chairperson. He said they were attempting to vote on an entire list, and some individuals have a vote only on individual departments within that list.
At that point, Robinson-McMillen sought a new motion to approve the entire list of salaried employees with the exception of the two judicial secretaries and the GIS Director. Sobel made the motion and Scotto seconded it. The board approved this motion by a 3-1 vote; McCracken cast the lone nay vote.
When Robinson-McMillen sought action regarding the judicial secretaries, Ammerman proposed a $3,000 raise for his secretary in 2013; her salary was $26,259.72 for 2012. He said she performs the “normal duties” with the position for the president judge. He said she performs the secretarial duties for the staff attorney, which include but are not limited to:
- typing reports for Master-In-Divorce cases handled by the staff attorney, which includes the Masters Reports, Findings and Recommendations, Orders and miscellaneous letters. In 2012, he said there were 20 hearings/cases.
- preparing documents and filings that are not associated with the Children and Youth system that the staff attorney handles, such as the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals filings and briefs.
- preparing Orphan’s Court (Guardian) documents and Domestic Relations monthly reports and miscellaneous filings.
In addition, Ammerman said she handles billing the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for criminal cases that originate from the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale. He said from 2010 through 2012, she’s brought in $103,800.21 in reimbursement.
He said she brought in $26,354.55 in reimbursement from Grand Jury proceedings in 2009. He said the county is estimated to get $200,000 in Grand Jury reimbursements in 2013 from the Operation Drive Thru drug case.
According to Ammerman, his secretary has been cross-trained to perform the duties of the Court Administration Office. He said she assumes these duties any time the court administrator is out of the office. Ammerman said she handles video conference duties for his courts; orders all supplies for the Court Administration Office, court reporters, staff attorney and both judges; reconciles PFA billing problems; and researches and provides address lists for the Clearfield County Jail.
He presented the salaries of other judicial secretaries in sixth-class counties. He said the judicial secretaries are paid $38,000 – $39,000 in Adams County; $34,000 in Armstrong County; $28,537 in Bradford County; $29, 757 in Carbon County; and $40,000 – $45,000 in Clinton County. All have two judges with the exception of Adams County, which has four.
Ammerman said he had asked the commissioners to increase his secretary’s salary in both 2011 and 2012. Neither request was afforded. This year, he said he requested a $4,000 salary increase, and they had agreed upon $3,000.
“Frankly, I think she’s worth a lot more than that,” he said.
Scotto said the judicial secretaries have been receiving the standard pay increase like everyone else. He said he’s contacted some of the other counties that are paying higher salaries, and their judicial secretaries have been there between 12 and 21 years. Scotto said he wasn’t opposed to the judicial secretaries getting a pay raise. However, he felt that a 10 percent pay raise was “unreasonable” and would come with a “hard precedent.”
Under his understanding of the law, Sobel said since about 2009, the commissioners essentially act like the legislative branch and appropriate monies. He said the courts have the duty to administer justice and possess wide parameters within the budget, including hiring, firing and supervising administrative employees. Sobel said it’s his understanding that the judge has a lot of leeway about how he appropriates his monies.
For that reason, Sobel said he supported a raise for Ammerman’s secretary. However, he indicated he had the impression the agreed upon amount was $2,500, which the county had budgeted for each judicial secretary.
After the lengthy discussion, Robinson-McMillen sought a second to Ammerman’s motion to give his judicial secretary a $3,000 pay increase for 2013. Ammerman’s motion died after failing to gain a second. Robinson-McMillen asked if she could propose her own motion to which Kesner said the chairperson should only make a motion if one hadn’t been made and if the duty is mandatory.
Kesner said it became an issue of whether the salary board had any additional time to set salaries. He said if there wasn’t any additional time, the salaries must be set, and he didn’t believe under the law that a lack of action would establish last year’s salaries.
Robinson-McMillen then sought a motion to raise the judicial secretaries’ salaries by $2,500 each in 2013. Sobel made the motion, which Robinson-McMillen seconded after being greeted by silence by the remaining board members. The board rejected this motion, 3-2, with Ammerman, McCracken and Scotto voting it down. Sobel and Robinson-McMillen voted in favor.
Sobel asked if the board had to set the salaries during this meeting. Robinson-McMillen said they could have another salary board meeting on Tuesday, and it’d still fall under the first pay of the year, because it can be made retroactive. But after some discussion about reconvening deliberations, she proposed attempting to approve the GIS Director’s salary, which included a $1,500 pay raise. Robinson-McMillen made the motion but failed to get a second from the board.
“To be honest, I want to revisit the whole thing. That’s what I want to do at this point,” said Sobel.
Ammerman said the board is agonizing over a relatively small amount of money given the current situation. Scotto said for him, it was a matter of fairness to the county’s other employees. He said it would be “a slap in the face” to them that one employee gains such a large salary increase in one shot.
Sobel said he didn’t disagree with Scotto and agreed the county needed to implement a better methodology for setting its employee salaries. He said the county has had the “appearance of inconsistency too many times.” With that being said, Sobel made the motion for the board to continue deliberating at a later date, which was eventually seconded by Scotto.
The board voted down this motion, 3-2, with Robinson-McMillen, McCracken and Ammerman voting “nay.” Sobel and Scotto voted in favor.
Ammerman then asked the board to please consider that he’d sought requests for pay increases in 2011 and 2012. He said the judicial secreatries were just given the normal raise like everyone else. He said if the board had done a little bit more each year, it wouldn’t be discussing doing it all at once.
“She’s been doing all these things, because she’s been asked to and she’s willing. She’s overqualified for her job,” said Ammerman.
Robinson-McMillen said the board needed a motion, because they’d voted to continue and cannot “just sit there.” She then sought a motion to give Cherry’s secretary a $2,500 pay increase for 2013, which Sobel moved and she seconded. The board rejected this motion, 3-2, with McCracken, Scotto and Ammerman voting no. Sobel and Robinson-McMillen voted in favor.
“We’re just at a real deadlock,” said Robinson-McMillen to which Sobel said he didn’t believe the board could proceed at that time.
Robinson-McMillen sought for a motion to give Cherry’s secretary a $2,000 pay increase, but she failed to gain a second. She asked, “Does anyone have a motion, or are we just going to sit here?” Sobel then made a motion to close the proceedings so far as salary issues for the two judicial secretaries and GIS Director.
Scotto asked when it would be resolved to which Robinson-McMillen said they would have to continue the deliberations during another meeting. Ammerman said he wasn’t available early to the middle of next week due to the court schedule. The board then unanimously agreed on 11 a.m. today.