The Beaver County Board of Commissioners has refused to approve four new hires announced by Sheriff Tony Guy, and say they will move to have the positions dissolved entirely at the next meeting of the county’s Salary Board. Sheriff Guy’s Solicitor questions the legality of the Commissioners’ moves, and says they should have made these decisions long before the Sheriff’s Office completed its hiring process for the replacement deputies.
Sheriff Tony Guy announced earlier this month he was hiring four full-time deputies to replace several which he terminated upon taking office in January. The vacant positions were fully funded in the Commissioners’ amended budget they passed in February. Guy developed what he called a “point based merit system” to fill the spots, informed part-time deputies Jen Bredemeier, Doug Hanna, Dave Mangerie, and Steve Montani that he was promoting them to full-time, and then publicly announced to the newspaper that he had made the hires.
County Commissioners say that even with all of the efforts they have made to reduce spending to cover a projected $17 million budgetary shortfall created by the previous Board, current projections show there is still a gap of more than $4 million they have to close. The Sheriff’s Office maintains one of the largest departmental budgets in county government, with approximately $3.2 million budgeted in expenses for the year. County records show the starting salary for a newly hired full-time deputy is $55,000 with a scale based on seniority that tops out at $71,000, not including any overtime pay.
“I learned about these hires by reading about them in the newspaper,” Commissioner Dan Camp told the Beaver Countian. “The Board of Commissioners will not be providing the signatures needed for them to be hired.”
Commissioners Camp and Egley refused to sign the so-called “PAN” forms which authorize the county’s payroll office to release funds for employees. Tony Amadio stood as the sole Commissioner to put his signature on the documents which require approval by a majority of the Board.
Along with refusing to authorize payment for any new hires in the Sheriff’s Office, the Commissioners also intend to move for the removal of the open positions.
“We will be bringing up for discussion at the next Salary Board meeting the elimination of these positions entirely,” added Commissioner Camp.
While Commissioners set budgets and authorize payments to employees, the County Salary Board determines how many positions each department has and what their corresponding salaries will be. The Salary Board is comprised of the three County Commissioners and the County Controller, along with a fifth seat which is filled by the elected row official who would oversee the position in question.
Sheriff’s Office Solicitor Mitchell Shahen told the Beaver Countian he does not believe the Commissioners have legal authority to prevent the hires from occurring at this point.
“There is a time and a place to dissolve positions,” said Shahen. “The [Pennsylvania] County Code requires the Commissioners to fund positions that have already been approved by the Salary Board, and these positions have previously been approved […] If they had dissolved these positions ahead of time that would have been a different issue, but they didn’t. If they didn’t want to have these positions available and they didn’t want to fund them, then they should have dissolved them long before now, not waited until after the Sheriff has taken steps to fill them. The Sheriff is doing nothing but exercising his rights under the law, filling positions that already exist, positions that the Board created.”
Attorney Shahen said he has not yet discussed the Commissioners’ latest actions with Sheriff Guy, but said there were possible legal remedies for him to consider.
Along with refusing to approve new hires for the Sheriff’s Office, Commissioners Camp and Egley have also refused to approve several hires put forward by Treasurer Connie Javens — As with the Sheriff’s hires, Commissioner Tony Amadio was the sole signature on those documents as well.