A Bedford County judge and the county commissioners need to resolve their lengthy dispute before it results in serious harm to the county and its residents.
For months, President Judge Thomas Ling and commissioners have battled over money that has been used to supplement probation officers' salaries, and the situation is getting worse.
It might be time to see if an outside party can mediate the dispute. Because this involves the judiciary, that might necessitate the assistance of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has power over all courts in the state.
The dispute arose after a fund that collected court-imposed fees and that was used to fund salary supplements for probation officers came up $180,000 short last year. In previous years, the county fronted the money for the salary supplements that then was repaid when the court-fee money was returned by the state.
In 2011, however, the amount from the state failed to cover all of the costs. Commissioners suggested that the pay supplements be halted or restricted until the county was repaid. Ling and Chief Probation Officer Keith Bowser objected to the plan.
Since then, the situation has deteriorated with commissioners threatening to lay off probation officers and the judge tightening control of some accounts, including turning a $93,000 fund for drunken driving classes over to a new entity and holding back on turning over more than $200,000 collected through the courts that's owed to the county.
Ideally, the two sides would sit down and come to an agreement. But Ling reportedly has refused to meet with commissioners.
Laying off probation officers or creating financial hardship for the county by withholding money doesn't serve the interests of residents. It's time to end this dispute.