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The Lake News Online
  • Morgan county back pay case headed to court

  • An issue over the treasurer's salary between this officeholder and the Morgan County Commission appears to be headed to court after an agreement to resolve the matter failed to coalesce.


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  • An issue over the treasurer's salary between this officeholder and the Morgan County Commission appears to be headed to court after an agreement to resolve the matter failed to coalesce.
    "I feel I must take the necessary legal action to resolve the issue," Morgan County Treasurer Louella Pryor stated in an April 24 press release.
    The dispute stems from a difference between the Morgan County treasurer's salary and that of other elected officials. The treasurer may be owed more than $93,000 by the county.
    For a number of years, Pryor said while other county officials were receiving 100 percent of what state statute allowed their pay levels to be set at, she was only receiving 74 percent. The percentages are set by the county's salary equalization commission.
    Pryor is now receiving the same percentage as other elected officials, but is seeking a settlement on the missing back pay.
    From 2003 to 2011, Pryor's salary was set at $33,300. Based on her figures and interpretation of state laws, her salary should have been $45,000. Over the eight years the difference is approximately $93,600.
    Pryor said she offered to settle for four years or $46,800 without interest.
    After negotiations with the commission stalled and rumors began to swirl that she had already filed a lawsuit, Pryor said she decided it was time to step forward to set the record straight with the media. In response, the commission issued a statement that it did not believe the interpretation of the law as suggested by the treasurer is clear and said the issue should have been raised several years ago.
    The commission said then that it would take no action on the back pay, putting the ball in Pryor's court as to potential litigation.
    According to the April 24 press release from Pryor, she was informed by her legal counsel on April 5 that he had received a phone call from the commissioners' lawyer on this matter, Ivan Schraeder of St. Louis, basically stating that commission wanted no further correspondence on the issue. To receive any compensation would require a judgement from the court in Pryor's favor.
    "I was extremely disappointed to learn the commission was no longer willing to even discuss a possible resolution. I had hoped that we could try to work this out and avoid costly legal action," Pryor said.
    She has said that she did raise the salary issue several years ago.
    "Prior to the Tuesday November 2005 salary commission meeting, I discussed this issue in great length with the commissioners and the county clerk. I explained that the treasurer's office was only making 74 percent while all other elected officials were making 100 percent and I felt this was wrong," Pryor said in the initial interview on the matter.
    Page 2 of 2 - She said the commissioners and prosecuting attorney at that time specifically discussed a "base" salary that was prepared before the salary commission.
    "I believe they misinterpreted the meaning of "base" salary and failed to follow the letter of and intent of State Statute 50.333," Pryor said.
    The base salary was presented to all elected officials at the meeting already prepared, according to Pryor.
    "During the salary commission meeting of 2005," Pryor said, "Morgan County Assessor Bob Raines made a motion to keep all elected officials' salaries at 100 percent according to state statute. This motion was not recognized by the chairman instead then Western District Warren Anderson immediately made a motion to accept the base salary distributed by Marvin Opie. Presiding Commissioner Arment seconded the motion. It was very clear that the intent was to keep the treasurer at 74 percent instead of 100 percent like all other elected officials."
    She said she questioned the legality of the salary ever since. But when she heard Schraeder, the county's current legal counsel, speak at an October 2011 Missouri Association of Counties meeting on elected officials' salaries, Pryor said she knew then the treasurer's salary had always been unlawfully lower than all other Morgan County elected officials since she took office in 2003.

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