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It pays to be Westmoreland County's part-time solicitor

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County's newly hired part-time solicitor received a $14,000 pay boost after only a week on the job.

In early January, county commissioners hired Melissa Guiddy to head the county's law department, signing off on paperwork setting her salary at $55,600, according to documents obtained by the Tribune-Review. Under county rules, it was not necessary for commissioners to vote on her hiring or her salary.

But Commissioner Charles Anderson said an incorrect base figure on the county's pay scale was used to calculate her yearly salary and amended paperwork was filed one week later, correcting the mistake and setting her salary at $69,610. The mistake, which initially calculated her salary at a lower level, was discovered through the county's “checks and balances,” according to John Felice, whose company runs the county's human resources department.

“There was a math error,” Anderson said.

Felice said the base salary used to calculate her salary already took into consideration her part-time status. But a clerk incorrectly reduced the listed salary by 20 percent to reflect her part-time classification, he said.

Commissioner Tyler Courtney said he was aware of the mistake and supports the change in pay.

But Commissioner Ted Kopas said he wasn't informed about the matter and the increase should not have been granted without the commissioners' approval.

“She should only be making what was approved,” Kopas said. “This has been a poorly handled process. It's a shame this good person finds herself in this mess.”

Guiddy was hired to replace R. Mark Gesalman, who retired after serving 25 years as the county's chief solicitor. As a part-time staffer, Gesalman earned $74,600 at the time he retired.

The commissioners first attempted to hire Guiddy's Greensburg law firm, King and Guiddy. Her law partner, Rob King, previously declined the position.

Guiddy has said she expects her tenure with the county to last about six months.

Felice said his company is revamping and simplifying the county's salary scale to head off any future errors in calculating wages.

Commissioners said Guiddy's salary will remain at the higher level.

“We make mistakes around here, believe me. We're going to pay what the position pays,” Anderson said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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