The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 8, 2014

Northumberland County sheriff resigns; Cites salary cuts

By Ashley Wislock, Francis Scarcella and Rick Dandes
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Citing the decision of “certain county commissioners” to cut his salary by 42.5 percent, longtime Northumberland County Sheriff Chad Reiner on Wednesday said he would quit his post effective Jan. 24.

Reiner’s salary of $53,834 is not scheduled to decrease until Jan. 1, 2016 — after the 2015 general election.

After that, the sheriff’s salary would drop to $31,000.

Salary cuts for four other row officers are on hold because of a court injunction. Reductions for the coroner and register and recorder would have become effective Jan. 1 because they ran in the 2013 general elections.

In addition to the salary cuts, the new policy would require all row officers to pay 50 percent of the county’s cost for their health benefits. For someone with a family plan, costs would almost quadruple, from $241 to $873 a month.

That salary decision “forced me to re-evaluate my career on a long-term basis,” Reiner said in a letter that accompanied his formal resignation note. “I have an obligation to obtain a salary capable of sustaining my family. As much as I love being sheriff, family will always come first.”

Reiner faxed his letter of resignation to county human resources director Joseph Picarelli, as well as to Gov. Tom Corbett, Secretary of State Carol Aichele and to Commissioner Jonathan Marks, of the state bureau of commissions, elections and legislation.

“I am sorry to see him go,” said Northumberland County Commissioner Rick Shoch, who was the lone opposing vote to the salary cuts. “I had a good working relationship with him. The reasons he gave for resigning, these are the things I’ve been talking about. If you reduce these salaries this much, you are eventually not going to get qualified people who will view this as a full-time job. And over time... you will see good people leave. Still, I remain hopeful we can find and retain good people. A job like sheriff, if you want to do it right, it requires full-time participation.

“All of this was something very avoidable.”

Asked if he thought a salary of $31,000 might deter qualified people from applying for the sheriff’s position, Shoch said, “Only time will tell.”

Added Commissioner Steve Bridy: “I wish him the best. And for him to take a swipe at the salary is disingenuous at best. He has two complete years left under his current salary. It is a dereliction of duty to those who elected him to serve.”

Reiner always said he wanted to do what was right for the taxpayers, said Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi, “but he is failing to mention to the public he applied for a federal job more than a year ago. It isn’t about the taxpayers to him, it is about the money. His salary wouldn’t have been cut until 2016 and that is even if he would have won re-election. Why didn’t he stay and finish his term? I find that interesting.”

County work since 2000

Meanwhile, late Wednesday afternoon, Reiner said: “It’s been a wonderful ride,” referring to his 14 years working in the sheriff’s office. Reiner became sheriff in 2005 after serving as chief deputy from 2000 to 2004. His term would have been up in January 2016.

Cpl. Robert Wolfe, of the Northumberland County sheriff’s department, was appointed chief deputy on Wednesday.

“It’s sad to see him go because he was a friend, as well as a boss,” Wolfe said. “He hired me five years ago. He ran the office efficiently, and it will be sad to see him go. Chad let us do our jobs and oversaw everything. He was very loyal to his dog. As of right now, I was promoted to chief deputy. When he leaves on the 24th, I’ll be the acting sheriff.

“If there is anything the office staff could do to keep him here, we would,” Wolfe said. “We wish he would stay, but it’s his choice, his decision. He has to do what’s best for himself and his family.”

Added Bernadette Chaundy, a sheriff’s department staff member: “We’re really going to miss him. He was a wonderful boss, very caring about us.”

Union County Sheriff Ernest Ritter III said Wednesday he will miss working with Reiner.

“We’ve worked very closely together over the years,” Ritter said, specifically as K-9 officers and in bringing police dog work to other counties.

Deputies from Valley departments helped one another, Ritter said; most recently, the Union County sheriff’s department assisted with additional coverage during the preliminary hearings of alleged “Thrill Killers” Miranda and Elyett Barbour, accused in a Northumberland County murder.

Ritter and his K-9 named Justice, trained in bomb detection, swept Northumberland County Courthouse during a November bomb threat.

“I hope for the best for Chad and his future,” Ritter said. “He’s a fine officer and a good friend.”

Northumberland County Coroner Jim Kelley said, “I am sad to see him go. I wish him the best of luck in his future.”

Reiner said he was “proud of his accomplishments” as sheriff.

“I started the first ever canine program in the county,” he said, “and helped get millions of dollars of drugs off the street. I modernized the sheriff’s office, bringing it into the 21st century.”

Reiner, in an open letter to the citizens of Northumberland County, said, “It has been thoroughly enjoyable serving you ... and it is humbling to have received the support you have given.”

He also expressed his gratitude and appreciation “to the supervisors and employees of all local law enforcement agencies, local court officials, probation officials and members of the prison staff for the support they have given to the sheriff’s office throughout the years. Most importantly, I want to thank the sheriff’s deputies and administrative staff for their loyalty, dedication and hard work. Their individual and collective efforts have been, and remain, critical to the success of the sheriff’s office.”

Staff reporter Evamarie Socha contributed to this story.