Cuyahoga County’s clerk of courts paid more than counterparts, but county says $150,858 salary is justified

January 24, 2018 GMT

Cuyahoga County’s clerk of courts paid more than counterparts, but county says $150,858 salary is justified

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts Nailah Byrd is paid tens of thousands more than her counterparts in Ohio’s other three counties with the largest populations - Franklin, Hamilton and Summit.

Byrd’s salary is $150,858, 7.75 percent more than the $140,000 when she was named to the position in 2015. Her predecessor, Andrea Rocco, earned $120,147 a year.

The annual salaries for other clerk of courts are: $83,636 for Maryellen O’Shaughnessy in Franklin County, $93,089 for Sandra Kurt in Summit County and $101,009 for Aftab Pureval in Hamilton County.

Byrd and the other three clerks of courts are also paid $10,101 a year by the state because each of their offices oversees a district court of appeals.

Unlike the other three clerks, Byrd does not oversee the county’s title bureaus, which are the responsibility of the Fiscal Office.

Cleveland.com discovered the pay disparity while reviewing the salaries of top administrators in Cuyahoga County government. That review found the salaries of other administrators are comparable to what their counterparts earn in Ohio’s other large counties.

In Ohio, clerks of courts oversee the filing, preservation, retrieval and public dissemination of all applicable court documents and records for a variety of court divisions.

In Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton and Summit counties, the clerk oversees Common Pleas Court’s General and Domestic Relations Divisions and the Court of Appeals.

The clerk in Hamltion County also oversees the county’s municipal court.

The clerk in Frankliin County also oversees the juvenile court.

Pay levels for top administrators in all but two counties are set by state law and are based on population.

In Cuyahoga and Summit counties, which operate under a charter form of government, salaries are set by the county executive. The Cuyahoga County charter also calls for the clerk to be appointed rather than elected. Summit County opted to have an elected clerk of courts.

Byrd, a former federal prosecutor and corporate attorney, served as the county’s inspector general when the position was created in January 2011. She was selected by Executive Armond Budish to serve as clerk of courts in February 2015.

County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan issued the following statement when asked about the salary disparity:

“Ms. Byrd was hired back in 2015 as part of an overall restructuring that cut costs and saved money in the executive administration by eliminating certain positions and consolidating others. She restructured the Clerk’s office, eliminated positions and streamlined services which resulted in substantial cost savings. In addition, she increased services for our County by working with the Domestic Relations Court to implement e-filing and by establishing a passport services agency, as well as a child support payment location at the Justice Center. She has more, broader and better experience when comparing her counterparts around the state.”

The number of full-time equivalent employees in the county’s clerk of courts division declined from 116 in 2014 to 98 in 2016 ,but then rose to 108 for 2018, according to budgets submitted by Budish to County Council.

The number of total cases filed, about 40,000, has remained fairly steady during the past three years. The annual budget has been about $8.5 million over the past three years.