Clerks protest salary decision to county brass

March 16, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A large contingent of Berkeley County Circuit Clerk Virginia Sine's staff appeared en masse before County Commissioners on Thursday to protest an unofficial decision not to reclassify their jobs, effectively denying them a more substantial pay increase.

"We are disgruntled," one of Sine's deputy clerks told County Commission President Steven C. Teufel and Human Resources director Alan Davis in an unexpected and somewhat heated discussion near the end of the commission's regular meeting.

"We give 1,000 percent in that office," the woman said.

Davis on Tuesday recommended to the County Commission that Sine's deputy clerks not be reclassified to Grade 7 from Grade 5, a change that would have elevated their salaries to the level of legal assistants in Prosecuting Attorney Pamela J. Games-Neely's office.

In documents Sine submitted with her budget request, she noted that the essential functions, tasks, knowledge, skills and education of her deputy clerks was "very similar" to Games-Neely's staff.


"Deputy clerks file and maintain all legal documents in the 23rd (Judicial) Circuit as well as Family Court files," Sine said.

She also noted her clerks' responsibilities for completing jail commitment, plea and bond documents, and maintaining working relationships with the legal community among numerous other duties.

Davis said Tuesday that the reclassification would have cost about $36,000 "over and above" what county leaders had planned to allocate for Sine's personnel. Davis' reasons for not recommending the adjustment included market indicators, including the response to advertisements for legal assistant positions versus openings on Sine's staff.

Ads for the legal assistant jobs yielded far fewer applicants than the 40 to 60 for openings on Sine's office staff, who now are paid a little more than $20,000 a year. He also noted different education requirements and aired concern that an adjustment would prompt other county staff to seek more money.

Davis told Teufel on Thursday that he asked Sine two months ago to "mark up" the legal assistant job description as a means to bolster her reclassification request, but she failed to respond.

Sine disputed that claim, noting she provided a comparison in the budget proposal she submitted in recent weeks.

Though he asked Davis to follow up with Sine's staff on the pay issue, Teufel told the deputy clerks that the commission had made strides to make county employee salaries more competitive since he was elected in 2002 and noted their pay had increased by about $7,000.

"We want to keep ya'," said Teufel, noting Sine had requested additional staff instead of the pay adjustment when asked to tighten her budget Tuesday.

Sine, who ran the office on Thursday afternoon in the absence of her staff, later said Teufel was mistaken in his recollection of the Tuesday meeting. She said she had indicated to him and fellow commissioners that she wished to hire additional staff instead of naming a chief deputy for her office, a position that also would have required a salary adjustment.

One of Sine's deputy clerks on Thursday challenged Davis' commitment last year to compensate employees who had more tenure with the county, questioning how newly hired staff only made a couple hundred dollars less than those who were employed longer.

The county's plan to increase salaries for tenured employees for the 2007-08 fiscal year generally was applied to staff who had been working for the county for eight years or more, a threshold Davis said was not decided last year and denied making a specific commitment

Only one of Sine's deputy clerks will have been employed at least eight years by June 30, 2007, the end of the current fiscal year, according to a compensation analysis Davis provided to the commissioners earlier this year. Six clerks will have worked at least three years by that time.

After about 20 minutes of discussion, Teufel asked Davis to meet with Sine's staff next week to review the salary issue, but made no commitment that adjustments would be made. The county's budget must be submitted to the state by March 27.

The Herald-Mail Articles