Economy Borough Tax Collector Dorothy Gnarra has prevailed in a lawsuit she filed against the Borough earlier this year. Gnarra filed the lawsuit back in February, after Borough Council members voted to slash her pay by 60%.
Economy Borough Council, dominated by members of the now defunct Bipartisan Committee for a Better Economy Borough, had overridden a veto by Mayor David Poling back in January, and moved forward with an ordinance drastically slashing the tax collector’s pay. Gnarra filed the lawsuit soon after, alleging she would no longer be able to afford to maintain her office.
The Borough’s tax collector had been paid roughly $45,000 in 2012, equal to 2.5% of collected taxes, a rate which had been set in place since 1986. Under Pennsylvania Law, boroughs can pay their tax collectors up to 5% of the taxes they collect as payment. Economy Borough Council’s new ordinance had set a rate of just 1%, or a yearly salary of roughly $18,000.
Gnarra told the court that she works 40 to 45 hours per week as tax collector, including 21 hours a week holding public office hours providing customer service to her constituents. Gnarra also said that due to her workload she also requires an assistant, who she pays for.
Councilwoman Michelle Lapinski had testified at a hearing held in the case that the Borough could not afford to pay 2.5% to Gnarra, and that the town’s financial position required the reduction. But just a couple of weeks after her testimony, and right before the general elections held on November 5th, Economy Borough Council voted unanimously for a tax cut of one-half mill.
Councilman Donald Sivy’s wife, Mary Jo Sivy, had been running against Gnarra for the position of tax collector, leaving Mayor David Poling to call the move to slash her pay politically motivated. Mayor Poling also accused council members of carrying out personal vendettas by passing the ordinance.
Mary Jo Sivy was defeated in the primary elections, and Councilman Don Sivy lost his bid for reelection to council amid the controversy.
In a ruling handed down by Beaver County Judge Gus Kwidis this week, the court found in favor of Dorthy Gnarra. Judge Kwidis determined the new pay rate set by Council was so low it deprived Gnarra the ability to perform the duties required by her elected office.
Judge Kwidis vacated the ordinance passed by Council, returning her pay to the previously established rate of 2.5% of collected taxes.