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Beaufort County magistrates challenge benefit cut

Magistrates in Beaufort County have challenged a move to cut their benefits.

Chief Magistrate Lawrence Philip McElynn appeared before County Council at a May 8 hearing to ask for a reversal of the county administrator’s decision to terminate health insurance for magistrates.

County administrator Gary Kubic notified the magistrates in December that as part-time employees their health benefits would end as of June 30.

McElynn said the decision was contrary to state statutes. He said the state doesn’t allow compensation for magistrates to be reduced during their terms in office.

There are currently 13 part-time magistrates, McElynn said. Their terms end April 30, 2018.

McElynn said he was asking that the benefit termination be postponed until that time.

County attorney Thomas Keaveny said magistrates are the only part-time county employees provided with health insurance benefits.

Keaveny added that the state statute has a specific section that allows magistrates to be treated the same as other county employees.

The statute states, “Magistrates in a county are entitled to the same perquisites as those employees of the county of similar position and salary.”

Deputy county administrator Josh Gruber spoke for Kubic, who couldn’t attend the meeting.

“This is not an attack on their service or the quality of their job,” Gruber said. “We have over 150 part-time employees who also provide a valuable service. The underlying issue is one of inequity.”

Chairman Paul Sommerville said council would take the matter under advisement and inform the parties when it is ready to vote.

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