Monday, February 18, 2002

$15,300 more OK'd for Mason court

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — City Council has authorized spending an additional $15,300 for salary and benefits for three municipal court employees.

        Clerk of Court Neal Huffman said the increase means:

        • Barb Jones, chief deputy clerk of courts, will earn $40,000 annually, up from $36,000.

        • Jean Killgore, assistant chief deputy clerk, will make $34,500, up from $29,000.

        • Deb Gardner, part-time deputy clerk, will have a pay raise from $11.75 to $12.75 an hour, giving her an annual salary of $23,200.

        Mr. Huffman said Council agreed in principle Jan. 14 to pay Ms. Jones and Ms. Killgore the higher salaries approved last week, but the ordinance that passed did not reflect the exact amount.

        However, City Manager Scot Lahrmer said the amount Council approved for the municipal court Jan. 14 was not a mistake. It “was exactly what they asked for,” he said.

        Councilman Peter Beck, who voted against the increase, called the court's request excessive. He said he couldn't understand why court officials asked the city for more money.

        “Two weeks later (on Jan. 28), there's a request to increase compensation from the original request. I didn't see the cost justification for those,” said Mr. Beck, Finance Committee chairman.

        Mayor John McCurley was reluctant to approve more money for the court, saying he was “a little uncomfortable doing business this way.” But he eventually voted in favor of the ordinance, he said, because he could be served a court order if it did not approve the increases.

        “We've been instructed by our legal counsel that anything (the court asks for) within reason has to be provided by City Council,” Vice Mayor Jim Fox said. As a result, “we have very little recourse but to approve it.”

        To date, Mason has authorized $161,600 for compensation for seven existing employees and six new positions for the municipal court since Judge George Parker took office Jan. 1.

        The courthandles misdemeanor and traffic cases, initial hearings for felony offenders, and low-level civil complaints.


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