Judge orders back pay for workers

GIRARD — Judge Michael Bernard has suggested to the city auditor that more than a dozen municipal court employees should now receive compensation for hours of work performed late last year.

Eleven court employees worked 64 hours in November without compensation before being laid off for about four weeks. The court’s 2006 appropriations had been exhausted and Judge Bernard laid the employees off until 2007 appropriations could be used in December.

The magistrate, bailiff and clerk of courts were required to work during the four-week layoff period for other employees because they receive some compensation from the county. Those three employees, however, did not receive the portion of their pay that comes from the city.

The 11 court employees who were laid off, represented by Atty. Dennis Haines, filed a lawsuit in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court earlier this month demanding compensation for the time worked. Haines, at the time, said city officials and Judge Bernard agree that the employees should be paid, but disagreed about where the money should come from.

Auditor Sam Zirafi on Thursday said the employees will now receive compensation for the time worked. He said the judge suggested the money be deducted from the court’s 2007 operating budget.

“Rather than wait for council and the judge to debate the issue, Judge Bernard informed me via phone to charge [the money] against his 2007 budget,” he said. “That being the case, I moved forward.”

Zirafi said the total amount in back compensation is about $21,000.

Funding for the court for 2007 has not yet been determined.

Councilman Frank Migliozzi, who also heads the finance committee, said council is waiting for the judge to submit a proposal for his 2007 funding needs, including the back pay and all other outstanding 2006 expenses. Council, he said, must still approve that proposal.

“I look forward to receiving something from the judge, looking it over with the auditor and determining if it’s reasonable,” Migliozzi said.

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