The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 1, 2013

22½-hour notice for court date irks chiefs

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — Nine days after it received a 54-page row officer salary complaint against Northumberland County commissioners, the prothonotary’s office left Vinny Clausi, Steve Bridy and Rick Shoch less than one day to prepare for this morning’s injunction hearing by having the litigation served at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Commissioners received the complaint filed by four row officers, who are fighting against their paychecks being slashed up to 48 percent, and were ordered to appear in court at 9:15 a.m. today.

The short notice sent Clausi and Bridy through the roof during a impromptu press conference Thursday afternoon.

“These four individuals have handcuffed this county,” Clausi said.

Coroner Jim Kelley, Recorder of Deeds Mary Zimmerman, Treasurer Kevin Gilroy and Sheriff Chad Reiner filed the complaint.

The media more than a week ago was given a copy of the complaint that seeks an injunction against row officer salaries being lowered, the result of an Oct. 1 vote in which Clausi and Bridy approved the reduction of elected officials’ salaries by up to 48 percent and forced row officers to pay 50 percent of their health insurance costs.

Commissioners’ salaries were also nearly halved in the vote.

But for some reason the prothonotary’s office held the complaint for nine days.

“We sent those papers upstairs to the court administrator’s office once we received them,” Northumberland County Prothonotary Kathleen Strausser said.

“We don’t give the sheriff’s department papers immediately when we get them. We just got those papers back and the sheriff immediately went out to serve them.”

Clausi and Bridy disagree.

“This is part of a conspiracy against the commissioners and the taxpayers,” Clausi said. “I urge the taxpayers of this county to not vote for these individuals.”

Only Zimmerman and Kelley are running for re-election on Tuesday.

“The arrogance of these entitled career politicians is shameful,” Bridy said. “They are suing you, the people, for your hard-earned tax dollars and we will not be intimidated by these fruitless complaints. I implore the taxpayers to not vote for these people.”

Northumberland County Court Administrator Brandy Yasenchak was not available for comment Thursday, but Clausi told the media that although he didn’t see the filed complaint, he did hear that no sitting judge in Pennsylvania would hear the case.

Instead, a senior judge from Central Pennsylvania will be on the bench in Northumberland County Court to hear the complaint. If the row officers’ request for an injunction is granted, it could potentially freeze elected officials’ salaries.

“They are trying to steal $1.4 million from the taxpayers (over four years),” Bridy said, the savings commissioners attribute to the reduction in pay and increase in health benefit contributions.

“This will not happen.”

Clausi agreed.

“The fix was in on this whole thing,” Clausi said. “We didn’t cause this. They (row officers) did. Not once did they come to commissioners and try to sit down and work something out. Not once did they call us and want to talk.”

Clausi and Bridy said they called the press conference so that taxpayers would know what was going on and that this wasn’t a political trick right before Tuesday’s election.

“We have other information that will show that one of the offices is robbing the taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Bridy said. “We also have information on times that are being rigged. We will not release this information until after the election.”

Bridy would not say which office, but Clausi made reference to some sort of insurance scheme that may be going on in Northumberland County, he said.

Gilroy, who was in his office Thursday, refused to comment.

The hearing will be held in Courtroom 2 at 9:15 a.m.