The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 1, 2013

Judge postpones Northumberland County row officers' hearing

By Francis Scarcella
The Associated Press

— SUNBURY — A Centre County judge has rescheduled an injunction hearing after the Philadelphia attorney representing four Northumberland County row officers asked for the continuance because, “he was busy.”

Attorney Samuel Stretton, of West Chester, filed a complaint on behalf of Coroner Jim Kelley, Recorder of Deeds Mary Zimmerman, Treasurer Kevin Gilroy and Sheriff Chad Reiner to stop an Oct. 1 vote that Northumberland County commissioners took to reduce the salaries of row officers by up to 48 percent.

Nine days after a 54-page row officer salary complaint against Commissioner Vinny Clausi, Steve Bridy and Rick Shoch for passing the resolution, commissioners were served and that left them less than one day to prepare for the originally scheduled injunction hearing that was to be held Friday at 9:15 a.m.

“This moron attorney (Stretton) asked for this hearing, got it and then asked for a continuance,” Bridy said.

“We scrambled all day Thursday to try and prepare for this hearing and we wasted taxpayer dollars by devoting our time on this nonsense and then we were told it was continued.”

When Clausi and Bridy learned the hearing was to be held less than 24 hours after they were served Bridy and Clausi went through the roof and set up an impromptu press conference Thursday afternoon.

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

“Our attorney and their attorney got together for this continuance. It was such a waste of a day for us.”

More than a week ago, the the news media was given a copy of the complaint that seeks an injunction against row officer salaries being lowered and forcing them to pay 50 percent of their health insurance costs.

Commissioners’ salaries were also nearly halved in the vote.

The prothonotary’s office held the complaint for nine days but Northumberland County Prothonotary Kathleen Strausser said once she received the papers she sent them to the court administrator to find a judge.

No sitting judge in the entire state would hear the case, until a senior judge decided to step in.

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

“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.”

Bridy disagrees.

“Something is wrong here. Something is really wrong,” Bridy said.

“Am I thankful we received a continuance? Yes.  But we wasted the better part of Thursday preparing for this complaint and it didn’t happen. We have other things going on in this county that need to be addressed and I really believe politically speaking the row officers didn’t want to have this hearing today (Friday) because it would have brought more negative publicity to them before the election.”

The new hearing date was set for Nov. 8.