By David Skolnick
Despite the Mahoning County Board of Elections’ director saying there’s no reason to take formal action to rescind 3 percent base-pay raises given to department employees, board members differ.
“We’re going to rescind them, that’s definitely happening,” said David Betras, the board’s vice chairman and the county’s Democratic Party chairman.
“A motion to rescind is in order,” added Mark Mun- roe, the board’s chairman and the county’s Republican Party chairman.
The four-member board unanimously approved the pay raises Tuesday.
But after conflicting statements were given when asked by The Vindicator about the raises, the salary increases were put on hold with plans for the board to repeal them.
Board Director Joyce Kale-Pesta said late Tuesday that because the board didn’t give a date to enact the pay raises, there was no reason to repeal them.
Betras and Munroe disagree.
Among the reasons the raises were put on hold about six hours after the board approved them was backlash from county commissioners who said they strongly oppose any salary increases for county employees. The commissioners are trying to persuade the public to support a new 0.25- percent sales tax and renewal of a 0.5-percent sale tax continuously on the May ballot.
The board of elections’ pay raises would cost $17,023 in additional payroll spending to the 12 full-time employees.
Looking back on the vote, Betras and Munroe said Wednesday they should never have agreed to the raises as the proposed salary increase was a late item given by Kale-Pesta to the board just before Tuesday’s meeting.
The vote was cast with “too much haste,” Munroe said. “It came in late to the meeting. We should have waited.”
Betras said, “I’m not passing the buck. I’m a board member. It wasn’t on the agenda mailed to me. I shouldn’t have voted for it. I told [Munroe] these kind of things won’t happen again.”
The board’s next regular meeting is 8 a.m. Feb. 18.
Kale-Pesta has called the 3 percent “a cost-of-living increase,” and “not a raise.”
Munroe disagreed, saying a 3-percent increase in pay is “definitely a raise.” Betras shared the same view.
“This whole payroll thing is an example of how dysfunctional county government is,” Munroe said. “Numerous studies show the county needs a strong [human resources] director to assist the various departments. There are jobs with similar classifications that aren’t paid the same amounts.”
The board’s nine clerks’ annual base-pay salary was to go from $40,433 to $41,646, retroactive to Jan. 1. The annual salary of Chris Rakocy, the board’s information technology manager, was to increase from $57,270 to $58,988.
Kale-Pesta and Deputy Director Thomas McCabe are being paid $73,143. Their new annual salaries were to be $75,337.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Kale-Pesta said county commissioners didn’t have an issue with the raises as they approved the elections board budget that included the 3-percent increases.
Commissioners said they knew nothing about it and would cut the board’s budget in order not to grant the raises if they were approved.
Elections-board employees received 3 percent salary increases on Dec. 1, 2012.
On Jan. 14, 2013, they received an 11.2 percent raise to offset the board agreeing the county would no longer pay the workers’ 10 percent portion of their state retirement contribution. The extra 1.2 percent was to offset the workers’ higher tax rate they would pay for making more money.
Also, a printout of the salaries of elections directors and deputy directors in other counties that Kale-Pesta compiled from the Ohio secretary of state’s office to justify the pay hikes was from 2012 and inaccurate.
It doesn’t have Kale-Pesta’s correct salary, listing it as $63,943 when it’s $73,143.
The document listed the annual salary of Trumbull County’s elections director at $76,173 and deputy director at $74,587. The two actually make $56,365 in base-pay salary a year and have since January 2009.
It also listed the salary of the Lake County elections director as $62,000 and the deputy director at $49,920. The county’s elections director earns $68,000 a year, and there is no deputy director.