3 Bullskin supervisors appeal for raises in court

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 10:24 p.m.

Three elected township supervisors in Fayette County have gone to court to try to get a raise in their hourly pay as roadmasters.

In an appeal filed on Tuesday, Bullskin's three supervisors said the township's elected auditors have refused to give them a raise for the past four years.

“The township supervisors believe it is a violation of the Second Class Township Code to permit the auditors to essentially freeze the wages of the roadmasters when the cost of living is going up and in failing to take into consideration the facts and circumstances which exist under the Second Class Township Code by refusing to provide a reasonable increase in the hourly rate for township roadmasters,” attorney Donald L. McCue of Connellsville wrote in the appeal filed in Common Pleas Court.

Roadmasters, according to the appeal, have duties that include managing road crews, operating backhoes and trucks, setting work schedules and planning road improvements.

Supervisors Thomas Keefer, Roy Thayer and Walter “Deb” Wiltrout earn $19 per hour to work 40-hour weeks as roadmasters.

This is Thayer's first year in office.

Their pay is determined by an elected board of auditors, which consists of John B. Coughenour, Jeffrey L. Martucci and Jeffrey L. Hann, according to the appeal.

The auditors have not approved raises for the supervisors from 2011 to 2014, despite supervisors seeking “a reasonable increase in each of those respective years,” according to the appeal.

The appeal does not indicate exactly how much the supervisors are seeking, but it notes that township employees who are in a union receive regular raises and will earn $17.80 per hour on road crews.

Hann said Tuesday that auditors did not approve raises for supervisors this year for several reasons, including a hefty increase in health care premiums for employees. He said the township will pay $180,000 this year for health care, up $60,000 from last year.

Bullskin's supervisors, at $19 per hour, earn more than the average for roadmasters in Pennsylvania, Hann said.

He cited a 2012 report by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors that put the average hourly pay statewide for roadmasters at $18.25 and in southwestern Pennsylvania at $17.92.

With benefits that include health care, pension contributions and mileage reimbursements, Hann said, Bullskin's supervisors' annual compensation is approximately $85,000.

In addition, Hann said auditors did not think raises were appropriate, with two of the supervisors facing election-code violations.

Keefer, Wiltrout and former supervisor William H. Geary were charged at the recommendation of an investigating grand jury.

The grand jury said Keefer and Geary helped voters obtain and cast absentee ballots when the voters, most of whom were elderly, were able to go to the polls.

The grand jury alleged that Keefer and Geary failed to submit required declarations of physical disability with the ballots. Wiltrout failed to fill out declarations of assistance after helping two voters fill out and mail absentee ballots, according to a grand jury presentment.

All three men's cases are pending in county court.

Other auditors and the supervisors did not respond to requests for comment.

In the appeal, supervisors contend the auditors' failure to grant them a raise is unfair and discriminatory and violates the township code, which requires supervisors' pay to be comparable to that of other employees who do the same work.

The appeal claims that although Bullskin is the county's third largest with 75 miles of road and 7,782 residents, roadmasters in the county's other second-class townships earn “significantly more” than do Bullskin's. No specifics are provided in the suit.

A hearing before a judge on the appeal has not been set.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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