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Assessor's office pay discrepancies corrected

August 06, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission on Thursday voted to make changes in the salaries of female employees in the Berkeley County Assessor's Office to end discriminating practices.

"I want the record to show a mistake was made and this is our most humble ... way of correcting that mistake," said County Commission President James C. Smith.

"We're trying our best to do the best and most fair and honest things to do," Smith said.

The issue was raised July 23 by Bruce Gipe, whose wife, Niki Gipe, resigned from her job at the assessor's office in July.

Bruce Gipe told the commissioners that the women in the assessor's office were being paid less than the men for the same work.

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On Thursday, the commission approved a 10-step action plan that includes giving Niki Gipe her job back with a pay raise and evaluating the salaries of all employees in the assessor's office.

Niki Gipe said she wants to speak to the other women in the office before returning.

"I don't want to come back and leave them high and dry," she said.

But Niki Gipe said it seemed like the commissioners were doing all she asked of them.

She and her husband said she resigned to draw attention to the plight of the women being paid less than the men.

The inequity in treatment of men and women in the office became a problem in February, when two male employees were given $4,000 raises that exceeded the county's employee handbook guidelines, Bruce Gipe said.

Female employees went to their boss, Berkeley County Assessor Mearle Spickler, with their complaints and were promised a two-step raise of $1,320 effective in July, he said.

On July 1, Spickler called them in one at a time and told them the County Commission rejected the raises, Gipe said.

That's when his wife told Spickler she'd resign if she didn't get the raise, and Spickler accepted her resignation, he said.

Under the county's guidelines, no one should make more than the office supervisor, yet two men under the female supervisor make more money, Bruce Gipe said.

The commission on Thursday voted to reclassify the position of Evelyn Fink, the chief deputy/assessor's office supervisor, to give her a step increase that would result in a salary of $31,000 a year.

Smith said it was wrong for the supervisor to make less money than the people she was supervising. He said he wanted it known for the record that the mistake was made by the assessor's office.

Spickler said he needs a refresher on the county handbook.

One of the long-term recommendations approved by the County Commission was to hold a work session with all elected officials to review the federal equal employment opportunity rules and the county handbook, said Berkeley County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm.

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