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June 13, 2014

Shoch: Two raises OK’d before vote violates law

— SUNBURY — The paperwork to appoint and compensate Northumberland County assistant solicitor John Muncer and administrative assistant Janet Povish as acting chief clerks had already been completed before a vote was to be taken at a public meeting that was canceled when a commissioner landed in the hospital.

The two documents drafted May 28, which adds $20,000 to Muncer’s $65,180 salary and $15,000 to Povish’s $35,833 salary, was signed by Commissioners Vinny Clausi and Stephen Bridy, human resources director Joseph Picarelli and former chief clerk Gary Steffen.

It was not signed by Commissioner Richard Shoch, Controller Christopher Grayson or budget director Stephen Cook.

The June 3 salary board meeting in which the appointment and compensation was to be put to a vote was canceled because Clausi was hospitalized and Bridy was at a conference in California.

The meeting was rescheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The paperwork has brought Shoch and Clausi to another spar of words.

“This is another instance of these two (Clausi and Bridy) and Mr. Steffen thumbing their noses at the law, which requires that these matters be voted on at a public meeting prior to payments being authorized,” Shoch said.

Violations such as these have become too common in Northumberland County, he said.

“They reflect poorly on Northumberland County government,” Shoch said. “Citizens need to be made aware of these violations of the law, and demand that these two commissioners be held accountable for their actions.”

Clausi said it’s always been common practice to hire individuals first and then approve it a meeting. When the salary board meeting was canceled, he said he instructed Picarelli to put the issue on hold so the paperwork could be ratified at the next salary board meeting.

“If he (Shoch) says I violated the Sunshine Act, then so be it,” Clausi said. “I’m getting sick and tired of this nonsense. I have to have a functioning county government.”

Shoch is out only to make the other commissioners look bad and make himself look good while doing nothing for the county, Clausi said.

Bridy was unable to be reached for comment.

This isn’t the first time Shoch has questioned employment paperwork.

In October, the commissioner accused then-President Judge Robert B. Sacavage and the other commissioners of allowing the former adult probation chief John David Wondoloski to collect unemployment by labeling his June 2013 retirement as an elimination of his position. Documents provided last year indicated Wondoloski was terminated when his position was eliminated through restructuring.

The effective date listed for Povish and Muncer’s additional compensation is June 2, four days before Steffen’s date of retirement. Steffen dates his signature as June 2 and Picarelli dated his signature as May 28.

Clausi and Bridy did not date their signatures, but Shoch said they “had already authorized the increases prior to the originally scheduled salary board meeting that was canceled due to Mr. Bridy and Mr. Clausi’s absence.”

Shoch found the two documents circulating on the day of the original June 3 meeting.

“Since neither of them was at the county that day, it had to have been signed by them on June 2 or earlier,” Shoch said.

Steffen has held the chief clerk position since 2011 after he replaced Kymberley Best.

The move to appoint Muncer and Povish, which Shoch opposes, would save the county $40,000, Clausi said.

The commissioners and Grayson will vote on the issue at 1 p.m. Tuesday before the regular commissioners meeting in the Northumberland County Administration Building.

If the motion fails at the salary board meeting, Clausi said he will make the same motion at the regular commissioner meeting.

“Mr. Shoch always says to the row officers that if they have it in the budget, they can spend it,” Clausi said. “We (the commissioners) have the money from the chief clerk and we will approve it at the commissioner meeting.”

 

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