We agree with a decision Monday to dismiss a lawsuit by Washington County Clerk and Master Brenda Sneyd, who was asking for a 10 percent salary increase from the county. Judge Walter C. Kurtz ruled that nothing in state law requires court clerks in the same county to be paid identical salaries.
He also refuted Sneyd’s assertion that she was being punished by county officials for the extra income she earns as a “special commissioner.”
“Her (Sneyd’s) derived income is considerable and it is not irrational for the county legislative body to consider this income in making its decision regarding whether or not to grant the 10 percent raise,” Kurtz wrote. “The extra income appears to come with the office.”
Serving in the role of special commissioner, Sneyd is by law entitled to pocket certain fees and commissions in the process of handling property sales pertaining to probate court, delinquent property sales and like matters. These are generally the types of fees that the clerk and master and the Circuit Court clerk are required to return to the county’s coffers.
Sneyd is named special commissioner in these cases by Chancellor Richard Johnson, who is responsible for appointing and supervising the clerk and master. Her earnings as special commissioner became an issue when Sneyd requested that county commissioners provide her with a 10 percent raise similar to the one given to Circuit Court Clerk Karen Guinn during the 2006-07 fiscal year.
We believe it’s time for state lawmakers to abolish the powers of the special commissioner. The Washington County Commission should also request a private act from the state General Assembly to move probate court from the clerk and master’s office back to Circuit Court.
When that happens, Sneyd would be justified in asking that her salary be raised commensurate to that earned by Guinn, who does not pocket any personal fees.