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Sunday column sequel | A chat with a judge

By Todd Franko (Contact)


Published January 29, 2011

Untitled document

Not everyone has been happy with scrutiny on Mahoning County pay raises, and count Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick among them.
The judge called Wednesday ready to defend her two pay raises that were listed in the spreadsheet I offered last week and you can read by clicking here.
One of her staffers received a 10-percent pay hike; another received a 6.8 percent hike.
Dellick was the only county boss to call last week. Take from that what you wish. But read more into how our conversation went:
She wanted to put the raises into context that they were not raises, but pay adjustments due to changes with each employee.
The 10-percenter had many new duties applied to his job description, Dellick explained.
I said that’s good to know, and I asked if I should take from that that he his now working 50-55 hours each week?
There was a pause. And then some kind of a “no” answer, but the exact words escape me.
I offered that many, many private-sector workers — myself included — have taken on new duties as staffs have shrunk and demands have grown — and we’ve lived with the same paycheck.
Dellick then advised how the 10-percenter is one of the few who will happily drive to Columbus for court tasks.
Come on ...
Columbus, Nebraska is a place I used to live and it’s 16 hours from here. In this economy and with the value of a government job, no worker should shrug driving to that Columbus, let alone Ohio’s Columbus. But a guy in county court gets props toward his 10-percent raise for this willingness.
I was then advised that work in her court requires her staffers to sometimes do some weekend work and stay in contact with each other.
I clarified that she was mainly referring to her managers, right? She said yes.
I said weekend contact is pretty much how every manager in most companies, including mine, has to live. No one likes to have it that way, and it doesn’t always happen. But when it does, we accept it. (That’s a fairly obvious sentence to most folks, but I offer it to those who might be surprised by that reality.)
She then advised me that the 6-percenter just completed college course work and was newly degreed in some fashion. For that, I could only answer “And ...?”
It got testy about this point, and she asked what I had against giving people raises?
That was an easy question.
“Nothing,” I said.
I offered that if we’re in prosperous times, I’d expect to get a pay raise if my company is part of the prosperity. And I would imagine government workers would share in that.
But last I checked, nothing about our present economy screams prosperity.
She then asked me if I knew how much I actually paid annually in sales taxes for the services I get.
(Seriously, she did.)
I entertained the question for a second (I guessed $700 in sales taxes to the county). But I said the debate is not about how much it costs me to fund you; it’s about how you spend regardless of what you get.
Then I was informed that many court funds don’t even come from the sales tax. Those funds come from state operations and grants. I said that, to me and most others, those are still my taxes.
Somehow, I referenced the closed snow day, and she quickly said that there will be no free day with her staff. It will either be a vacation day, or hours will have to be made up, or whatever. But it most certainly will not be a free day off.
I directed that plan to reporter Pete Milliken, who was doing a follow-up story on the snow day fallout. He contacted the judge, and that resulted in a strange back and forth as Dellick realized what she can and can’t do for the snow day.
Um, it’s a free day.
And that’s a look at a 10-minute phone call that says a lot about how our taxes are spent and how 10-percent raises are rationalized.
It didn't give me comfort. But maybe that's just me.

___________

From Thursday, Feb. 3:

The day after Mahoning County's day off, and the issue is still smoldering.

• I took a look at some spreadsheets I have, and came up with about $350,000 in lost wages due to the "snow day" for the only government agency to close down Tuesday. But a more astute reader chimed in, with a better record of county spreadsheets, and puts the number north of $450,000. He's a spreadsheet wiz, and I am not.

• Judge Dellick reported today that plans for her staff are to have the hours made up or charge a vacation day. We're following up on that assertion. She said that's her plan for her court; it does not mean it's being done elsewhere. We'll check.

• Can anyone tell me how it's being handled in other county departments?

• I love the deputies. They are the kings of Mahoning County wage givebacks, and their running total to date is $3 million annually they've given back in wages and benefits. They report that when county offices closed Tuesday, all their deputies assigned to various work details around the courthouse and elsewhere reported back to the jail, and extra catch-up work was performed, including a contraband sweep.

• I'm glad to see staff

• One reader is not happy about county worker wage reporting. Check out their message below.

• My chat with Judge Dellick today included some tasty back-and-forth. She's not happy with the reporting either. The back-and-forth will be part of Sunday's column.

• If we were Egyptians or Tunisians, how would we handle these county operations?

___________

From Tuesday, Feb. 1:

The snow could not  have come at a more perfect time for Mahoning County citizens who've been avid readers of this space the past few days as it contained lists of outrageous pay hikes for many county workers. (It's at the bottom of this post if you need to see it).

Today -- Mahoning County government closed for work due to the storm.

No other government operation in our vicinity is known to have closed. Reports from Akron and Canton indicate all of their governments are open for business.

But in Mahoning, it was too dangerous for hundreds of experienced adults to report to work. Some Mahoning workers also closed down when an earthquake struck last year -- in Ottawa, Canada.

I got a great link from a reader showing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie patiently walking an angry police officer through the steps of why his gravy train pay plan is done in Jersey. Watch it here.

It's a great 6-minute clip that applies directly to here and the 5, 10 and 15 percent raises just doled out by many county bosses.

And it's also relates to why Mahoning County workers are not at work today like the rest of us: They don't care about cost as it is not their money.

So watch the Christie clip. And also read below as others in the Valley reacted to working and driving in today's snow:

++++++

Roads were ok at 7am when drove down Glenwood from above Boardman High School.  We had our optimist meeting at Denny's and had 5 there.  Several of our club members are in Fla and Arizona and one of the teachers was in Columbus for a meeting, so not bad from normal 10-12 people at meeting. Rt 224 was slushy but not bad. Saw plows both state and township all morning and early afternoon when I drove over to Poland on Rt 224. Now will cross our fingers for stage 2 overnight.
John, Boardman


Austintown road workers started at 5AM and will Quit at 4.  By then roads will be in good condition with a fresh mixture of salt/slag applied last. The township does not close down for weather.  
Michael Dockry
Austintown Twp. Administrator

Why is the superintendent of Poland schools’ recorded message that school is cancelled going out at 5:19 a.m.? Last week it was 5:35 a.m. when there was a 2-hour delay.  Prior to that it was like clockwork at 6:02 a.m. which is acceptable. Can we go back to receiving the message at 6:02 and not 5:19am?
Joanie, Poland

I live on a single lane private road maintained by a resident on our street.  He does a great job. Yes, I work in the schools and was very happy to see  the closing notifications printed across my t.v. so early.  It is good when all the schools agree on the conditions.  
Peggy Y, Boardman

Good. No complaints for what we got dumped on us...
Sean, Boardman

I left my house at 6:15a.m., roads were snow covered and slushy.  I drove on Glenwood to Shields and had no difficulty.  Little ice on the car this morning but nothing a little scraper couldn't handle.  Still running a daycare.....so no closing for me, someone has to look after those children whose parents have to go work.  Have a great day.
Jodi, Boardman
    
You know you can't keep a Realtor down!   I have been out all morning, Rt.224 is passable, but due to the cold the slush is not slush, it has harden & you must be careful.  There are a lot of trucks out, trying to keep on top of things.  Our sales meeting has been cancelled for tomorrow morning because most people won't show up that live out in the other counties.
Patti, Poland

Austintown is in good shape on township roads, haven't driven county or interstates.
Gary, Austintown

Roads were fine….had my husband drive me to work.  Canfield roads are always cleared.
Julie, Canfield

Most roads are snow and ice covered due to the passing storm all crews were out this morning early and continue to plow and salt in an effort to remove the snow and ice to allow traffic to move throughout the Township. It is our hope that everyone will proceed with caution and take in to account the conditions that exist and with more to come use common sense when and if they have to travel. All the Township staff is at work and will remain there for their entire shift.
Lawrence R. Wilson
BoardmanTownship Road Department

State Road 224 was a little slushy coming to work at 7:30 am but the road crew was out working on them.  Boardman Park roads were plowed and our ground crew supervisor, Jim Feret, was there to escort the office girls to the office to insure that they did not fall in the parking lot.  What a Gentleman!  The Park was open for business and all employees made it to work without any problem.
Sheryle Snow
Boardman Park Department
 
For Canfield, school was called off early this morning.  The roads weren't too bad in the Canfield city limits as I made the short trek to the high school from my home.
Greg, Canfield  

Work never closes at a prison, and had to report. The roads in Austintown were and probably still are atrocious. NOT one plow was out in Austintown and I almost got stuck in my housing development. Turner Road was like a hockey rink.. all ice!!
I left for work 45 minutes early and arrived 30 min. late. Canfield roads were better and Route 11 got better as I was traveling southbound. I witnessed several whipeouts and accidents.
Tony, Austintown

Everything was great here in Poland Village. Roads are good. Should have had school.
Tim, Poland

Considering the horrible late-night conditions I think our roads this morning were pretty good!  We were on Market St. around 8am and traffic was very light.  We saw plenty of plows out trying to keep up with the icy slush.  It sounds like tomorrow might be more of a problem.
Sheri, Boardman

+++++++++
 

Mahoning County dished out $360,000 in pay raises in the first month of the year.

Some of the raises surpassed 20 percent. Many were north of 10 percent. And many more were above 5 percent.

Click here to see a PDF version of the data.

Click here to see an Excel spreadsheet.

Pardon my rawness. I'm not the best at spreadsheets. I will update these each month.


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