Greene commissioners abolish jury commissioners

December 13, 2012
The Greene County commissioners Thursday presented a certificate of appreciation to the Greene County United Way, recognizing the organization’s recent partnership with the county on an employee campaign. Chatting with Commissioner Chuck Morris about the acknowledgment are Barb Wise, center, United Way executive director, and Hayley Finley, United Way executive assistant. - Jon Stevens / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

WAYNESBURG – With a unanimous vote Thursday, Greene County commissioners resolved to abolish the office of jury commissioner at the end of 2013.

Neither Democratic Jury Commissioner Lynn Leathers nor her Republican counterpart Rosalind Laur attended the meeting.

“Both were notified prior to this meeting that we were going to take this action,” said Commissioner Archie Trader.

On Wednesday, Trader said the county will save approximately $59,000 by eliminating the two part-time jury commissioners’ position, which pay $6,652 plus benefits.

“The court believes its can handle the jury selection process through the court administrator’s office,” he said.

In February, Washington County commissioners also voted to abolish the office of jury commissioner, but that county’s GOP jury commissioner, G. Richard Zimmerman became part of a Commonwealth Court complaint against the state and the governor that sought to enjoin the new law from taking effect.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed Act 108 into law in December 2011, which gave counties across the state the authority to abolish the office.

The law, narrowly upheld by the Commonwealth Court in a 4-3 vote, allowed counties to vote to abolish the office of jury commissioner but the case is now being reviewed by the State Supreme Court.

Larry Thompson, president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners, said earlier this month that, “The issue should not be a matter of dollars and cents. Some believe doing away with our office, an office created in 1868 to establish and uphold the integrity of prospective juror selection, might save them money. The true issue is a law that has constitutional flaws that if sustained and upheld by the Supreme Court, would remove the watchdogs elected by the people to oversee and ensure a nonpartisan approach to prospective juror selection in the various counties. The concept and idea behind this law is shortsighted.”

The jury commissioners’ association contends the law is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers.

Also Thursday, the commissioners adopted the county’s 2013 general fund budget keeping millage at its present rate of 6.77 mills.

The commissioners also set millage for debt service at .695 mills and the library fund at .07 mills.

General fund expenditures are estimated at $15,773,417, while liquid fuels are estimated at $1.1 million. Other major expenditure categories are 911 fund, $320,000; domestic relations, $597,751; children and youth, $2.1 million; HSD/transportation, $3.1 million; and mental health/mental retardation, $2 million, for a projected unified budget of $25,765,478, much of which, other than the general fund, is predicated on state and federal reimbursements.

The commissioners presented a certificate of appreciation to the Greene County United Way, recognizing the organization’s recent partnership with the county on an employee campaign.

The campaign, which ran from Oct. 25 through Nov. 9, raised more than $1,200 as county employees pledged to make contributions through payroll deduction.

Barb Wise, United Way executive director, thanked the county for instituting its first employee campaign.

Several people were either appointed or reappointed to boards or commissions.

Karen Bennett, the county’s human services director, was reappointed to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services Board for a one-year term; Doug Willis was reappointed to the Green County Fair Board for a five-year term; Sheila Stewart was reappointed to the Industrial Development Authority for a five-year term.

Also, Dave Shipman and Rick Thistlethwaite were reappointed to the Farmland Preservation Board for three-year terms; Eric Marshall and Suzanne Swinshock were reappointed to the county planning commission for four-year terms; and Andrew Corfont was appointed to the Industrial Development Authority for a five-year term.

The commissioners accepted the resignation of Shirl Barnhart as a member of the planning commission and appointed Bob Keller to a four-year term.

Five people were reappointed to the county’s redevelopment authority. They were Marcia Sonneborn, five years; Barry Nelson, four years; Ralph Burchianti, three years; John Dorean, two years; and Thelma Szarell, one year.

Appointed to the Human Services Advisory Board were George Blystone, Kathleen Gregg, the Rev. James Cherry, Peggy Butler and Glenn Bates, all for a three-year term.

Children and Youth Advisory Board appointees were Karen Pflugh, Virginia Wainwright and Michelle Robinson, all for three years.

During a salary board meeting following the commissioners’ meeting, the board voted to create a fiscal program manager with human services. It was explained this person, who is expected to be hired in early January, will be responsible for analyzing and monitoring the block grant program.

Jon Stevens was the Observer-Reporter’s Greene County bureau chief. During his 41 years with the O-R, he covered county government, courts and politics, and won statewide and regional writing awards.

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