Girard court workers seek payment

GIRARD — Girard Municipal Court employees filed a lawsuit in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court against Judge Michael Bernard and city leaders, seeking pay they say was never received.

Fourteen court employees are listed in the action filed on Wednesday.

According to their lawsuit, court employees worked from Nov. 6 through Dec. 18, but were not compensated for that time.

Judge Bernard and city officials have been involved in an ongoing dispute over court funding. The matter is before the state Supreme Court — which has already refused to hear the case once.

Judge Bernard claims he was not given enough money to operate the court. City officials contend that the court was adequately funded with slightly more than $800,000, but mismanaged by the judge. The judge is seeking $871,388 for the 2006 year.

The court’s appropriations were exhausted before 2006 ended. Once the funds were depleted, the judge did lay off 11 court employees in mid November — until 2007 funds were available in late December 2006.

Those layoffs, however, did not come before the employees had already worked several days.

Atty. Dennis Haines, representing the court employees, said both the judge and city officials agree that the employees should be paid, but are arguing over who should actually pay them.

“Everyone agrees they should be paid, but no one is taking any steps to do anything about it. They are fighting over who controls this money, so we will have to fight it out in court,” he said. “Regardless of their dispute, you have a group of employees who have worked and need to be paid.”

Haines said he is hopeful that the situation can be resolved quickly so the employees do not have to go without their pay for very much longer.

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