Salary Board debate wage increases

A bonus for the public defender and the starting salary of the assistant district attorney were the flashpoints in a meeting of the Salary Board held this week.

Chief Public Defender John Parroccini was previously awarded a prorated bonus when he worked without an assistant for several months after one left and before another began.

A similar situation happened this year where Parroccini was the sole attorney in an office designed to have two.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said that he thought his last bonus set a policy but noted that the commissioners did not follow through with a different department in a similar situation.

“I believe I brought to the board a bonus for you last time,” Commissioner Cindy Morrison said. “I said this should not be precedent setting” and said that “bonuses should be brought to the Salary Board and argued on (their) own merits.”

“(We) need good salaries that allow us to recruit good people to do jobs,” Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said, though he said his concern is that the bonus situation becomes subjective.

Parroccini said, though, that it was “like a slap in the face” to be thanked for the work he does without a financial incentive to continue to move his office forward.

“I’ve been saying this since 2005 and it’s falling on deaf ears and I can appreciate that,” Parroccini said. “Don’t tell me you appreciate my work and then say a bonus is not appropriate.”

“I do appreciate the work that you do,” Eggleston said. “Any type of bonus structure is a real challenge in a public space.”

Morrison said that the commissioners offered bonuses to individuals who served as interim directors at Human Services.

“I do know the last bonus (to you) was maybe a little low to be quite frank,” Morrison said to Parroccini, noting that she was “sticker-shocked” by the bonus amount using the same math as before.

“There’s value in keeping you here and keeping you happy,” she said. “I’m fully in favor of awarding a bonus to you.”

She then made a motion for a bonus totaling $6,500.

“I think it’s fair,” Kafferlin said, but noted that he has walked in on Parroccini “saying negative things” about him and Eggleston.

“I think you disrespected me,” Kafferlin said to Parroccini. “I think you disrespected Commissioner Eggleston a moment ago. I thought what Commissioner Eggleston said was fair.”

Ultimately the bonus was approved unanimously by the three commissioners.

For the assistant district attorney position, District Attorney Rob Greene said that Kord Kinney, who had been serving in that role, left last month.

Greene asked the Salary Board to increase the wage for that position to $50,300 – in line with where the assistant public defender’s salary was set.

“(It is) imperative that this rate does get raised so I can hire someone and someone of good caliber,” Greene said.

While Greene said that Parroccini’s office “does a great job,” he noted that the prosecution does “double the cases…. Being a defense attorney for 12 years, the district attorney requires per case at least double the amount of work. Unequivocally. (I’m) not saying they work harder (but) per case more work is put into it from a prosecution standpoint than from a defense standpoint. No question.”

“Today is more of an emergency for the ADA,” he added. “No one is applying for this job except for one guy from Philadelphia.”

“I understand the concerns,” Eggleston said. “On some level, they’re valid. (We) should address them as part of the budget. That said, I wouldn’t consider this an emergency. The DA’s office has functioned with a lot less for decades.”

He proposed budgeting the increase for next year.

“It’s also costing the county more money now because,” Greene said, he is using part-time Assistant District Attorney Rick Hernan more heavily. “That’s why I think it is an emergency situation.”

A motion to increase the wage was approved with Kafferlin, Morrison and Greene voting in favor and Eggleston voting against.