By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP —
In an unusual outcome for anything dealing with South Pymatuning Township government, the parties in dispute over Mark Presley’s pay walked away from a court hearing Tuesday both saying things worked out for the best.
Presley, a township supervisor who worked for the township for 22 years, will stay retired as a township road worker, but will get about two months’ severance pay based on what he thought he should have gotten, not the rate set by the township’s board of auditors.
The Second Class Township Code tasks the board of auditors with setting working supervisors’ pay, and says that the pay shall be comparable to what is paid in the municipality for “similar services.”
At their January meeting, auditors Thomas Lyons and Dennis Sump lowered Presley’s pay from $20.78 an hour to $17.02, and eliminated his clothing allowance and personal days and cut his vacation and sick time.
Auditor Laurel Alexander voted against the action.
Presley and Alexander appealed the decision to Mercer County Common Pleas Court, arguing Sump should have recused himself from the vote because he has a “long personal history” with Presley that prevented him from voting “impartially,” and that Presley’s compensation was set “to settle political and/or personal scores between members of the board of auditors and Presley.”
Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson said Tuesday he was ready to take testimony when the attorneys asked to confer and they worked out a settlement.
The deal reinstates Presley to the pay rate “as he were any other employee,” said his attorney, Brett Stedman, meaning his pay was set at $21.40 and his clothing allowance and off days were restored.
However, Presley will remain retired and will reject any offers from the township to return to work, Stedman said.
Presley also will be paid a severance of whatever he would have been paid if he had continued working from the day of his retirement – the exact date was not known, but it occurred in January – through Tuesday.
Presley said he was “forced” to retire due to the auditors’ decision, because the lower wage would have reduced his pension benefits, which are based on an average of the last five years of his salary.
Stedman said he was not sure if the decision would impact Presley’s pension benefits, but he instructed Presley to report if to the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System.
“I’m glad things went the right way for me,” Presley said, adding that things also went right for the township, its residents and the people of Mercer County.
“Justice was served,” he said, thanking township residents.
“Obviously, we think the decision was fair,” Stedman said.
Lyons said he and Sump agreed to strike a deal to save the cost of fighting in court.
“It was in the best interest of the township,” he said.
“It reached the point where the amount of money we were talking about wasn’t worth it,” Steele said.