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JFS hikes bosses' pay in midst of union talks

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:59 AM

The interim director of Huron County's Job and Family Services (JFS) said almost $42,000 in raises for 10 administrators and supervisors were simply "equity adjustments" that were long overdue.

"We had supervisors that were supervising individuals that were paid more than they were," Lowell Etzler, interim director, said. "They've been out of line for quite a number of years."

Ten of the department's 21 supervisors and administrators got raises ranging from more than $10,000 to $1,600.

Amy Leibold received the largest raise of $10,150, about 25 percent, making her the fourth highest-paid administrator, according to information provided to the Reflector by the department. Etzler said she is in the department's financial area.

Chris Robertson, a work force supervisor, received an $8,000 raise. Charlene Steffani, a supervisor in child support, received a $5,400 raise and Michelle Daniel, also a supervisor in child support, received a $4,300 raise.

Janet Poyer, Brian Lindsley, Connie Leimbach, Alice Hamons, Lenora Minor and Jeanne Fisher also received raises. (See the box accompanying this article).

Etzler said the raises had been planned for some time and estimated the raises only increased total salaries for administration by about 3 percent. "If you compare it to the job they're doing and the responsibilities they have, I'd say it was in line," Etzler said. "They were way underpaid," in comparison to JFS workers in surrounding counties, he added.

"In the whole realm of reorganization, this was a part of the total reorganization," said Etzler, who makes $58,000 for his JFS position. "There are still some adjustments planned," he said, but they will probably not affect salaries.

Nancy Brown, administrator of the child support area, retired in September, and Etzler said the position will not be filled at this time. She earned $55,700 per year.

Another six supervisors or administrators were given longevity raises, which Etzler said are required by federal civil service regulations. Five of these administrators received five cents per hour raises, while one received a 20 cents per hour longevity raise. The 20-cent per hour raise amounts to $416 annually.

JFS has been negotiating with union employees since their contract ran out at the end of June. Etzler said JFS has filed an unfair labor practice against the union, so he declined to discuss the progress of negotiations. He said he is waiting to hear if the state Labor Relations Board will grant a hearing on the agency's filing.

Etzler said he has no idea how the news of raises for administrators will factor in to negotiations. He would not reveal the latest offer on the table for the union to consider. "I won't even discuss that," he said. "We're still in the process of negotiations."

In August, three positions were elimated in a move that agency officials said had to "do more with less and being more efficient." The JFS allocation for the fiscal year 2008 was reduced by $411,000, according to information from the agency, and the three cuts were supposed to save the agency $172,701.

The job cuts were the latest in a series of shakeups at the JFS agency, which came under public scrutiny following high-profile cases involving Michael and Sharen Gravelle and Paul Efaw. Earlier this year, Etzler was named interim director, temporarily replacing Erich Dumbeck, who resigned. Then, Teresa Alt was appoined to replace David Broehl as program administrator of the children services unit.

In August, a screener was fired for allegedly threatening one of the agency's clients and using computer equipment to access pornography. In response, she sued JFS. The case is set to go to trial in July.

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