They hire consultants.
I've known Darcel a few years. I've watched as she worked her way through school. I've seen her walk to work in all kinds of weather, making sacrifices for her daughter. I've see her at the Easton library nearly every time I've visit that place. I'm very proud of Darcel's work ethic and educational achievement. It's been a long struggle for her, but she finally sees light at the end of the tunnel. Her proudest accomplishment, of course, is her daughter, who's pictured with her on this post.
Darcel works in the Civil Division and recently wrote a business plan for her department. She gave me permission to post it and you can read it, in its entirety, here. It's an intelligent and practical business perspective, from the ground level, on how to improve a county row office. She also has refreshing views on the inner workings of the courthouse. Here are a few excerpts.
Why did courthouse workers unionize?
Northampton County Courthouse employees have voted in a union because the employees want pay increases. Pay had not increased in the last three years and the treatment of the employees was getting abusive at the workplace. The employees needed a neutral party to help with the employment issues, bring in opportunities to allow seniority to play a factor in promotions on the job, and training sessions for employees to improve behavior on the job. When the contract was negotiated, the employees received pay increases, more added time for vacation hours, and other demands. Some employment issues are being discussed in the contract, such as, a disciplinary board that oversees the complaints from employees (neutral parties are evaluating the situation and rendering a decision in the matter). Cutting across these issues is concern for individual health. Northampton County Courthouse changed insurance carriers because the county believed that employees would benefit with the new changes.
How has technology impacted life for a courthouse worker?
Technology is a big factor at the Northampton County Courthouse because the county uses a computer system for daily activities. The computer system keeps a daily record of all activities within the courthouse. At the Civil Division (also known as the Prothonotary’s Office and Clerk of Courts – Civil), the public can come into the office to access any file that is not sealed by the courts. Thus, all firms, and most particularly those in turbulent growth industries, must strive for an understanding both of the existing technological advances and the probable future advances that can affect their products and services.
The Civil Division employees use the computer systems to make daily entries of filings and have access to email, but the employees cannot send civil documents to the public as attachments because the Civil Division does not have that kind of software package system like some of the other counties. For example, some counties offer civil documents on the Internet where the public can purchase civil docket entries and other civil document via credit card or Pay-Pal service along with filing electronic documents from attorneys and pro se individuals (individuals acting on their own behalf). The Civil Division will have to think of ways to please the public and to compete with the other counties with an upgraded computer software system.
How can the Civil Division be more responsive to the public?
With a limited income, consumers are living paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to pay the mortgage. Mortgage companies will be filing more complaints in foreclosures. The filings will increase to about 60% at the Civil Division in the next 10 years. The situation would cause employees to become overworked; absenteeism would increase; conflicts will increase amongst the employees and the office would be understaffed. The Civil Division will need to hire more employees. The department would need 12 additional employees (six to help with the Sheriff’s Sales and six to input the increased paperwork) plus the county will have to increase employee wages.
If an increase of unemployment occurs in the next five to ten years, domestic violence and divorce filings would increase. Some consumers will become frustrated and angry causing more domestic violence cases to be filed with the PFA (Protection From Abuse) office. The PFA office will need to hire more employees because the office would be understaffed; an increase in absenteeism; overworked and would cause conflicts amongst the employees. The opportunity would be to hire seven employees in the next ten years.
People like Darcel are what make Northampton County, and most small governments, work. We spend millions for consultants and studies, but the answers are often right under our noses.