Jury commissioners to remain in county
Officials keep elected posts
December 5, 2012
The two jury commissioners are staying in Butler County. The county commissioners on Nov. 28 opted to keep the part-time elected posts. Under state law, the county commissioners have the authority to abolish the part-time posts. Commissioner Bill McCarrier was the swing vote, siding with Commissioner Jim Eckstein to keep the jobs. McCarrier said he and his colleagues shouldn’t have the right to eliminate elected posts. “I believe power rests with the people,” he said. McCarrier said the state should have tied the issue to voter referendums, not by commissioner votes. Eckstein agreed it wasn’t proper to reduce the number of row officers. “The people elected these gentlemen to do the job,” he said. Commissioner Dale Pinkerton proposed the elimination, saying it would save the county $250,000 over four years, or $65,000 annually in salaries and benefits. Had the posts been cut, county court administration would have absorbed the work. Eckstein said that’s an indication there may be too many people working in court administration. “Maybe we should get rid of somebody in the court system,” he said. Pinkerton pointed out 20 counties already eliminated the posts. He also said the random selection process of the jury pool doesn’t decide who comprises actual juries. “It’s done by the attorneys,” he said. Before the commissioners made a decision, Larry Thompson, a former county jury commissioner and the president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners, argued to keep the posts. Thompson said the county would open itself to potential litigation pending the outcome of a court case challenging the state law. The jury commissioner association appealed a Commonwealth Court ruling to the state Supreme Court. “The act of empowering county commissioners with the authority to abolish an elected office of the people has no place in the arena of a free people,” Thompson said. County Jury Commissioner Jon Galante also spoke in defense of the job. “The jury commissioner position, a row office, was created right after the Civil War to ensure jury selection would be unbiased and nonpolitical,” he said. Following the meeting, Thompson and Galante both were pleased with the decision to retain the posts. “I’m pleased not for myself, but for the people of Butler County,” Galante said.