County raises stir up ill will

Commissioners, FOP slam $360K outlay

By Peter H. Milliken


More than $360,000 in pay raises at the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s and Engineer’s offices drew the ire of the commissioners and the president of the union representing county deputy sheriffs.

The deputies are “very disheartened over the raises that were given out,” Sgt. Thomas J. Assion, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 141, which represents county deputies, said at the commissioners’ Thursday meeting.

The deputies have not had a raise since 2008; 53 deputies remain laid off; and portions of the county jail remain closed, Assion said.

“I’m not very happy about how this happened,” Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said, referring to almost $80,000 worth of pay increases for nonunion employees in the engineer’s office and more than $288,000 worth of raises in the prosecutor’s office.

“I’m offended,” Righetti said. The commissioners have asked the deputies and other county employees to take significant concessions through furlough days, she noted.

The county Children Services Board and its union dropped its request for 3 percent annual pay increases for union employees after a recent public outcry against the raises, she noted.

John A. McNally IV, chairman of the commissioners, said he hopes the commissioners can discuss the raises with Prosecutor Paul J. Gains and Engineer Richard Marsico in a Tuesday staff meeting.

“We’ve told everybody that we need to hold the line on spending, and we’ve basically done that,” said Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti.

The public expects the commissioners “to do more with less, and we’re all still taking pay cuts” he noted.

The county prosecutor and engineer are elected officeholders, and they do not need the approval of the commissioners to give pay raises to their employees.

The commissioners, however, approve departmental budgets and union contracts for county agencies. The engineer’s office has a union; the prosecutor’s office does not.

Now that the prosecutor and engineer have granted these raises, commissioners may have a hard time selling voters on a future sales-tax renewal, Traficanti said.

“We’ve told every department, and we said, for the rest of this year, that we were asking for concessions, and the deputies have taken it on the chin, time and time again,” Traficanti added.

“It is a personnel matter, and it shouldn’t be discussed in public” session, Marsico said of the raises without elaborating.

McNally said he was “sort of stunned” when he heard of the raises in the prosecutor’s office and that he found the raises in the engineer’s office surprising.

In a November budget hearing before the commissioners, Gains requested a 2011 general-fund budget of $2,708,284 for his criminal division, a 60 percent increase from his $1.7 million 2010 budget.

Gains complained at that time that since 1997, he has lost nine lawyers to other county agencies, five to city agencies, three to federal agencies and six more either to other county prosecutor’s offices or the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

“It’s primarily because of the low pay that these lawyers have consistently received here,” Gains told the commissioners as to why they left.

In December, the commissioners approved a budget of $1,982,000 for the criminal division.

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