HOLLIDAYSBURG – Trying to hire a victim witness coordinator, Blair County District Attorney Pete Weeks said he interviewed 20 candidates and offered the job to three.
But all three refused, so the district attorney proposed to his fellow salary board members on Wednesday that the salary for the job be restored to $ 50,000 per year.
Since the wages board said no in a 3 to 2 vote, the county is still offering the position with an hourly pay scale equivalent to $ 37,836 to $ 40,863 per year.
“It’s going to continue to be a struggle to find someone”, Weeks predicted at the meeting where his arguments were rejected.
It was the county salary study that proposed a reduction from $ 10,000 to $ 12,000 in salary for the position of victim witness coordinator.
Weeks, who said he did not understand why the provider of the salary study came to this conclusion, also informed the salary board of a related concern.
Rebecca Lidgett, who has held the post of victim witness coordinator since the end of June, resigned on October 15. This leaves the victim witness unit normally consisting of four people to a relatively new staff member.
“The people in this unit perform important tasks” Weeks told the wages board explaining his request. “They help us move criminal cases forward, working with victims and witnesses. And we need it more than ever right now because we have a large backlog of criminal cases. “
Weeks also reminded the wages committee that no property tax money is used to cover the salary and benefits of the victim witness coordinator.
Rather, these costs are covered by grants provided by the Victims of Crime Act and the Rights and Services Act.
Commissioner Amy Webster voted with Weeks for a higher salary, but they were outvoted by Commissioners Bruce Erb and Laura Burke and Controller AC Stickel.
Erb talked about the “exhaustive work” involved in the salary study as a reason for wanting to follow his recommendations which ranked county jobs and led to the award of associated pay levels.
“I’m not for hiring at pay levels outside of politics,” said Erb.
When Weeks asked for information on how salary research provider East Coast Risk Management had proposed a lower level of pay for the position, Chief Clerk Nicole Hemminger said it was likely confidential information.
Weeks told the wages board that, based on his investigation of other fifth-class counties in Pennsylvania, he found that most paid their victim / witness coordinators between $ 50,000 and $ 60,000 per year.
This did not influence Stickel who said he could investigate the same Fifth Class counties and find that their controllers were paid more than Blair County.
Burke also countered that Weeks’ investigation lacked information on how these counties structure their victim and witness units and the duties of their employees.
Burke also said that since the Blair County Victim Witness Coordinator position is now an hourly position, the position is now eligible for overtime pay so that the person hired can earn a salary closer to the amount. requested per weeks.
Weeks also suggested that the position justifies the higher salary based on the mix of professional skills it requires.
The coordinator, he said, must be able to work with victims of crime, including cases of sexual assault, child abuse and homicide, in addition to caring for of the work associated with maintaining the crime subsidies.
“You are asking for a human person and an accountant wrapped in the same body”, said weeks. “I haven’t met that person yet, so it’s been a struggle to hire someone and it’s going to continue to be a struggle.”
Mirror staff editor Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.