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Relatives of Allegheny County judges racking up nice raises

| Saturday, April 21, 2012

It pays to run the jury room in Allegheny County courts, especially if Mom is the president judge.

Four months after getting a promotion to a new supervisory job, Lindsay Hildenbrand, a daughter of Common Pleas President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel, received a nearly 11 percent raise, among the highest this year in the court system that faces a $3.5 million budget deficit.

More than 900 union workers in the courts got 3 percent raises.

"If you're in the in crowd, you get a little more," said Michael Ceoffe, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 249, whose 550 court employees' contracts are up at the end of this year.

"If they're doling out those kinds of percentages, I'll be the first person to bring that up at the bargaining table," he said. "If you're giving out 11-12 percent, the Teamsters are looking for a couple of dimes. I'm sure our employees are going to say, 'Hey, wait a minute.' "

Deputy Court Administrator Claire Capristo said McDaniel was not involved in any of the raises awarded last month. McDaniel and Hildenbrand did not return calls for comment.

"It's because she was supervising people who had higher salaries than her. That's inappropriate for a supervisor position," Capristo said. "It's common practice when that situation arises."

McDaniel in November promoted Hildenbrand, 41, of Moon from her job as the judge's executive assistant to supervisor of jury operations, giving her a raise from $54,960 to $56,511. The 10.8 percent raise bumps her to $62,627.

Brian Quigley, 33, of Ohio Township also got a promotion in January to assistant director of jury operations. He is married to another McDaniel daughter, Jamie Quigley, who is the judge's executive assistant. Brian Quigley got an 11.9 percent raise from $50,395 to $56,400. He could not be reached.

Shira Goodman, deputy director of the nonprofit watchdog group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, said an anti-nepotism policy would avoid any controversy.

"Even if they're totally legitimate raises, it raises eyebrows," she said. "It's a distraction for the court, and it creates tension in the system. It's the appearance. Even if it's totally legit, people think they're getting it because they're related and that's not good for anybody."

Steve Bechtold, president of the Allegheny Court Association of Professional Employees who represents 333 union employees, declined comment.

Allegheny County employs about 1,200 people in its court system. More than 900 are unionized. Most other employees received small or no raises at all, Capristo said. The highest raises were in the jury office.

Kweilyn Ward was promoted from aide to clerk and got a raise from $30,413 to $40,800, a 34 percent increase. Four staffers in the jury room got the 3 percent raises and two clerks got boosts of 6.2 percent and 10.5 percent.

Neither of McDaniel's other two family members who work for the courts received raises this year.

Jamie Quigley, 34, was promoted from tipstaff to executive assistant in November and got a raise then from $39,984 to $54,232. Hildenbrand's husband, Girard Hildenbrand, 46, a supervisor in the pretrial services department, last received a raise in January 2011. He makes $57,787.

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