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Judge: Raises won’t cost taxpayers

Ironton Municipal Court Judge Clark Collins said that the raises to court employees are not costing the taxpayers anything.

Last week, Ironton City Council had a discussion about raises given to Municipal Court employees and that those employees were allowed to form a union.

Some council members were concerned that the matter wasn’t brought before them, although the council can’t approve or disapprove the matter and the court doesn’t have to consult them.

The council’s legal council, Bob Anderson, explained that under Ohio law, court employees are one of the groups that cannot demand collective bargaining but the employer, the judge, can collectively bargain with the employees.

The 11 court employee raises amounts to between $4,000-$5,000, Collins said, not the $14,000 that was reported.

“This isn’t costing city of Ironton a dime,” Collins said. The money for the raises comes out the court’s Special Projects fund, not the city’s general fund. “City council, mayor, taxpayers shouldn’t be upset because we saved this money. It was a small raise.”

Part of that money went to one employee who went from being an assistant probation officer to replacing the chief probation officer who left last year.

“So he has been performing those duties and we moved him up,” Collins said. “But that is not a raise, that is a promotion.”

All that was done under Ohio law. Collins said that any raises over the years have come from court funds, not the city’s general fund.

Collins, 70, is not running for Municipal Court judge again because of a state law that doesn’t allow anyone to be over the age of 70 when they take the office.

“I’m locked out,” he said.

Attorneys Mark McCown and Kevin Waldo have filed to run in the November general election for the open Ironton Municipal Judge seat.

Collins said he allowed the court employees to unionize because Waldo, also an Ironton City Council member, has campaigned that he would fire everyone in the Municipal Court.

“They are concerned about that and I don’t blame them for being concerned,” Collins said.

The union contract is for three years and they are part of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “So they felt this was a protection offered by unionizing. So I gave it my blessing because they have been good employees and I want to protect my employees. For someone to come in and fire them for no reason other than that is what he wants to do, I think that’s wrong.”

Waldo said he did not wish to respond on Collins’ comment.

McCown said he that it has always been his belief that when you run for office, you don’t go in with preconceived idea of firing everyone and bring in new people.

“There is institutional knowledge in everything,” he said. “And it is important that those who do their jobs appropriately and well, they should be kept. Politics shouldn’t enter into it when you are looking into the qualifications and abilities of the employees who are there.”