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Officials argue over election director wage

Carbon County officials sparred over the hourly wage the new director of election should be paid.

On Thursday, the county salary board differed on what it felt was an acceptable salary for the new director of elections. The position was vacated last month by Lisa Dart, who said she felt that she wasn’t a valued employee anymore after the salary study came out.

The director position has now been offered to assistant director Carol Etheridge of Lehighton.

The salary board denied the initial motion to change the rate of the director from $24.23 per hour to $27.41 per hour. The vote failed 3-1, with Commissioner Chris Lukasevich casting the sole yes vote.

Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein said that he felt the increase was “a real shame”

He cited that he had proposed an increase to $25.46 per hour for Dart in January and the motion failed and now to offer a person coming into the position who has less experience $27.41 an hour, was not right.

He then asked Lukasevich if this increase was in the budget because of his vote.

Lukasevich said that it was the consensus of the board of commissioners to offer this rate to Etheridge.

“The fact that you’re voting against it now, I think some of these issues should have been brought forth in that discussion,” he said to Nothstein.

Lukasevich also cited the fact that the person is leaving before the appeals process to correct salaries further forced the county to move the item up and determine salary ranges for advertising the positions.

“These positions would have been reviewed and if justified, an increase in salary would have been brought forth before this board,” he said.

Nothstein said for filling the position, he would make a motion for one step under, meaning $26.75 per hour. That motion failed 2-2 with Controller Mark Sverchek and Commissioner Rocky Ahner voting no.

A third motion setting the salary at $24.84 per hour passed 3-1, with Ahner casting the sole no vote.

Nothstein said that he is “deeply concerned over the elections because of the lack of experience in this department.”

Etheridge has served under Dart for two years.

Lukasevich said he felt Etheridge was better prepared to take the helm than Dart was when she took over in 2010, saying that the county needed to hire a consultant to train Dart.

However, Dart had knowledge of the elections operations prior to her being named director.

According to previous articles, Dart had helped in the elections department, while also working in the commissioners’ office and as a parking attendant, since at least 2008, under then longtime director Kenneth Leffler.

Leffler retired from the post in 2009 and was replaced by Timothy Benyo, who Dart also worked under during elections.

Dart then replaced Jacqueline Berger, who replaced Benyo after he resigned to take a position in Lehigh County’s election bureau in early 2010. Berger only lasted three weeks as the director.

After that, it was Leffler’s recommendation on her knowledge of the position that lifted Dart to the director position.

Lukasevich pointed out that the county had offered Dart the opportunity to be a consultant for the election bureau until Etheridge was fully trained in the position.

Other matters

In other positions, the county voted to establish the position of an assistant chief clerk/office manager trainee at $25.49 per hour, effective Feb. 2; as well as establish the position of one fiscal assistant/para legal trainee at $18.29 per hour. Lisa O’Donnell of Tamaqua, who had served as the fiscal assistant/para legal, was named as the assistant chief clerk/office manager trainee. She will be trained by Colleen Klein, who is set to retire from the position in April.