Richland County commissioners

Richland County commissioners Tony Vero, Marilyn John and Darrell Banks expressed concerns Tuesday about the increased costs born by the county to help operate Mansfield Municipal Court. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD -- Richland County commissioners plan to ask the City of Mansfield about a $101,349 annual increase in the county's share of Municipal Court operational costs.

The county is required by state law to pay two-fifths of the Municipal Court's operational costs. The State of Ohio also pays a portion of judges' total salaries.

Mansfield billed the county $356,436.96 for 2018, compared to $255,087.65 for 2017,  according to a Jan. 22 letter from Mansfield Finance Director Linn Steward to county Auditor Pat Dropsey.  That's an increase of 39 percent.

More than half of that increase ($54,265.79) was for health insurance costs for judges and the clerk of courts. The City of Mansfield is self-insured and it appears the city billed the county for claim costs, as opposed to a portion of employee premiums, Commissioner Tony Vero said.

Vero said that that may be the correct insurance billing method, but that commissioners need to learn more.

Commissioners also would like to discuss the city billing for more than two court bailiffs.  A June 13 written opinion by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost indicated counties must share only in the cost of one one bailiff per judge.

Some counties around Ohio are balking at increased municipal court costs, leading to Yost's opinion, commissioners said.

Mansfield Municipal Court, it appears, has two full-time bailiffs and a part-time bailiff with total compensation totaling $181,744. One bailiff's total compensation is $80,641.60, a second is $76,857 and a third's (presumably part-time) is $24,543.

"Bailiffs make $80,000 a year?" Commissioner Marilyn John asked.

Vero replied, "That's what they put in the public record."

"We would not be doing our job as the fiscal administrators for the county if we did not investigate to understand: 1) the reasons for the increase; and 2) if we can take any action to reduce such substantial increases," Vero said.

"This is not an adversarial situation with the city. We just need to investigate the matter and then discuss with the city if we disagree on cost allocation," he said.

With the approval of John and fellow Commissioner Darrell Banks, Vero and Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Keller, chief of the prosecutor's civil division, will seek a meeting with Mansfield Finance Director Linn Steward and perhaps city Law Director John Spon.

Vero said the goal of such a meeting would be to understand the overall billing, the insurance portion and an explanation as to why the city is billing the county for more than two bailiffs.

"We wouldn't like the city saying what we are or (are) not compensating employees. But they do have a right to question what we are compensating employees if they are paying a portion of those salaries and benefits. Salaries continue to rise and we don't have say. You have a lot of money being paid to bailiffs and we have no say," Vero said.

"Normally, you would say what does the county care what the city pays? The county cares to the extent that we have to pay every time you give pay increases and it's continuing to increase and there is a third bailiff listed on there and its starting to get substantial," Vero said.

Also on Tuesday:

-- Commissioners said they planned to ask City of Ashland officials about that community's plan to enforce and administer commercial building codes in-house, rather than through the Richland County Building Department. Commissioners said they had not been contacted by Ashland about ending the contract with Richland County.

-- Commissioners approved a new case management system that integrates law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, courts and defense attorneys into one comprehensive web-based system. The new Matrix system was requested by Prosecutor Gary Bishop. There will be a $38,000 one-time implementation fee and a $3,800 monthly user fee. It replaces a DOS-based system designed 25 to 30 years ago that provides no case management integration among the agencies involved in a criminal case and is also no longer being updated.

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?"

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