Ohio County deputy salary dispute sent to mediation | News, Sports, Jobs

photo by: Photo by Joselyn King

Attorneys Teresa Toriseva, left, and Joshua Miller, representing Ohio County Deputies, and William Wilmoth, representing Belmont County Commissioners, speak after a hearing on Friday.

WHEELING — A court case involving a pay dispute between Ohio County Sheriff’s Deputies and the Ohio County Commission is going to mediation.

Last December, deputies filed three separate cases against the commission in Ohio County Circuit Court. The first alleges they were denied at least a week’s pay after the county made changes to its payroll process. The other cases relate to payroll procedures and the use of sick days during the COVID pandemic.

A hearing of MPs seeking an injunction to stop payroll procedures was due to take place on Friday noon.

But Judge Ronald E. Wilson began proceedings by telling the attorney there was no need to confine the witnesses because “there will be no testimony today.”

He noted that among those present were “many familiar faces” in the courtroom, and that he liked “at least four of you that I know well.”

Wilson also recognized the deputies in the courtroom, most of whom came in uniform.

“That, I assure you, will make no difference to me,” Wilson continued.

He then explained his “hunches” about the case.

“This case is not good — for the city or for the county,” Wilson said. “It’s a bad situation to have people here disagreeing, and disagreeing in the press. This matter must be resolved quickly.

He added that it appears there are several issues in the case “that a judge must decide – not a jury.”

“There are legal questions you need answers to…” Wilson continued. “We need to resolve this matter as quickly as possible, which means you are going to have to go to mediation and try to resolve it.

“It also means that if we can’t solve the problem in mediation, we will solve the problems that a judge should decide. It is very unfortunate to have a case like this.

Wilson added that he did not “believe for a second that the commissioners intended to deceive anyone” with their actions to change the way MPs are paid.

“If they broke the law, then they did it without knowing they broke the law,” he said. “If they broke the law and the law requires a remedy, the plaintiffs will get that remedy.

“For me, it’s a very simple case.”

Wilson then asked the attorney to engage in mediation and suggested two attorneys to contact – Steve Dalesio of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, or Joe Selep of PIttsburgh.

After Friday’s hearing, a mediation date was set with Dalesio for 11 a.m. on March 30. It will take place in lieu of a previously scheduled hearing before the Ohio County Sheriff’s Deputy Civil Service Commission, which will only be postponed if mediation fails, Teresa said. Toriseva, lawyer representing the deputies.

“(The mediation) is not open to the public…but any agreement reached would become public and would have to be approved and voted on by the (county’s) commission and separately by the entire group of county deputy sheriffs in the Ohio,” she said.

The Ohio County Commission is represented by attorney William Wilmoth.

Wilson said that as soon as he receives the mediation report, he will give counsel “time frames to respond to issues that you feel I should decide.”

Toriseva told Wilson that since the case involves a compensation issue, there is an urgent need to resolve it.

Additionally, she added that she would make additional filings in the case based on new evidence that was presented at a separate civil service hearing on the same issues that took place on Thursday.

Evidence was a contract between the Ohio County Development Authority and the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department to provide additional security when needed in the Highlands. That contract expired in 2020 and was never renewed, county officials confirmed.

“We don’t believe the mediation will be successful because for some reason the parties involved were unable to come together around a table and discuss the issues,” she said. “That’s why we are here.”

The first pay grievances with the county were first filed by deputies without a lawyer on May 5, 2022. Lawyers then became involved over the summer in unsuccessful attempts to resolve the issues, according to Toriseva.

“Knowing you and knowing Bill Wilmoth, I don’t understand why this can’t be resolved through mediation,” Wilson told him.

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