Fayette commissioners hire attorney

Mary Pickels
| Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Citing Fayette County's need to take a "litigation-avoidance posture," Al Ambrosini, chairman of the board of commissioners, on Tuesday proposed the hiring of a Greensburg attorney to be the county's interim chief solicitor.

He and Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky voted in favor of hiring Ken Burkley for a period of three to six months, beginning on April 1 at a salary not to exceed $4,000 a month.

In February, the board accepted the resignation of longtime county solicitor Joseph Ferens. Attorneys John Cupp and Sheryl Heid continue to be county attorneys.

Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink voted against the measure.

"I never met Ken Burkley. I have no idea who he is," she said.

Zimmerlink asked if there had been a meeting to determine his scope of work.

She questioned the last-minute addition of Ambrosini's proposal to yesterday's agenda.

"We had an agenda meeting last week to avoid these kind of (communication) problems," Zimmerlink said.

Ambrosini said he and Zapotosky met with a county insurance representative in an effort to try to reduce the county's deductible and discuss ways to reduce litigation.

"We've had such a horrendous problem with lawsuits in Fayette County the last few years. We absolutely have to address that," he said.

"A lot of these lawsuits come from various boards in the county," he said.

Those boards' solicitors "operate autonomously," he said.

Burkley can offer an "impartial" assist with "the redesign process" of the county's solicitors, Ambrosini said.

"We need to establish what our new organization is going to look like in terms of our solicitors' group," he said.

"The outcome will be of benefit to the county if we are able to cut back on the number of claims against the county. It's something we should try," Zapotosky said.

In another 2-1 vote, the board renewed a three-year contract with Greensburg firm Felice Associates to provide human resources services.

Zimmerlink voted against Ambrosini's motion, another late addition to yesterday's agenda.

Several residents questioned if having an in-house personnel department might not be a cheaper option.

"My comment would be to review in-house (costs) versus contracting out," Zimmerlink said.

Ambrosini said the contract cost remains the same, $122,400 per year.

It includes on-site human resources director Dominick Carnicella, as well as handling of the county's four unions' periodic contract negotiations and grievance issues.

Salary demands for a single personnel director can rise above $100,000, Zapotosky said, excluding potential outside assistance from labor lawyers.

He added that Greene County, with a smaller population than Fayette's, has human resources costs of $197,000.

In other business, the board tabled agenda items to hire a chief county clerk and director of public works.

The two positions are to be filled because county manager Warren Hughes has retired.

Candidates are still being evaluated for the positions, the board said.

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