Richland County courthouse

The Richland County Administration Building is located at 50 Park Ave. East in downtown Mansfield. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD -- The war of words over the highest-paid employees in the Richland County Juvenile Court and detention center ratcheted up on Thursday.

Commissioner Tony Vero said commissioners have notified Judge Steve McKinley and court Administrator Brian Bumpus they have "serious concerns" about salary information presented by the court, "particularly by Mr. Bumpus."

In a written request for a phone interview, McKinley on Friday reiterated his decisions on salaries are not subject to approval by commissioners, regardless of commissioner-driven wage studies.

The announcement by commissioners came two days after they unanimously approved pay increases for the lowest-paid Juvenile Court employees -- a vote that followed a contentious discussion with the judge and his administrator.

Last fall, commissioners suggested court leaders provide lump-sum bonuses to higher-paid employees and allocate more funds to boost the lower-paid workers. Instead, the court approved largely 3-percent increases across the board, according to Bumpus.

Bumpus disputed the notion the highest salaries were out of line and that they were "comparable" to counties of similar size, including Delaware, Medina, Greene and Clark.

Tony Vero

Richland County Commissioner Tony Vero (Richland Source file photo)

On Thursday, commissioners said that going forward, Bumpus will need to provide them in advance with any information he plans to present during a meeting.

"I am conducting my own wage (study) and comparisons, not only with counties Mr. Bumpus included, but also the counties we included in our (own) wage scale study," Commissioner Tony Vero said.

"We thought it was peculiar for Mr. Bumpus to present a 2018 wage scale as comparable to Richland County, when four years have gone by and I would imagine most, if not all, of those salaries would have gone up," Vero said.

Video from the Richland County Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, May 19.

"What we found was that Mr. Bumpus presented a comparable for Greene County (from 2018). The Greene County administrator in 2018 has since retired and has been replaced by a lesser salary than what was presented by Mr. Bumpus," Vero said.

Local News. Locally Powered.

Our goal is to help make the community a better place to live and work, and to do that through reliable, independent, local journalism that focuses on solutions. Help us tell the whole story of our region by becoming a member today.

During Tuesday's meeting, commissioners didn't question the need to raise the salaries for the lowest paid by $1 an hour to $15 per hour to start.

But they asked many questions about the highest-paid Juvenile Court employees, including three administrators who will earn a combined $271,169 in 2022.

"We also noted the Greene County administrator is the only administrator for the courts and is also a magistrate," Vero said.

"We are finding out now that Richland County is the only county, so far, that has two (juvenile) court administrators on top of a detention supervisor (director of court services).

"The information presented by Mr. Bumpus was seriously misleading," Vero said.

"Moving forward, we will not meet with Mr. Bumpus unless he provides us with the information he plans to present to the board ahead of time ... or we will not schedule a meeting with him," Vero said.

Vero said Bumpus could not claim he didn't have the information he presented on Tuesday in his possession earlier "because it's existed since 2018."

"He just walked up while we were in session and presented very misleading information," the commissioner said.

Steve McKinley

Richland County Juvenile Court Judge Steve McKinley (Submitted photo)

In his email, McKinley again pointed to an Ohio Supreme Court decision that authorizes judges to make salary decisions for their own staff members.

"The Ohio Supreme Court's decision in Dellick holds that courts are not bound to follow the wage studies of (county) commissioners," McKinley said in an emailed response to Richland Source.

"This is for the practical reason that courts are constructed differently from county to county based on how a judge chooses to allocate duties among his/her staff.

"The additional reason is that the Legislature has vested in the Judge the authority to determine reasonable compensation for those subject to his direction, making commissioner micromanagement contrary to law," the judge wrote.

Support Our Journalism

Our reporting empowers people to individually and collectively achieve progress in our region. Help make free, local, independent journalism sustainable by becoming a Source Member.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"