Monday, December 09, 2013

You're a Mean One, Mr. Kraft

On Thursday night, in perhaps one of the most mean-spirited moves I've witnessed in my years of watching Northampton County Council, I watched them unanimously fire the mail room supervisor. They don't really have the power to fire her, so they defunded the position instead. Right before Christmas. When she got up to defend herself, she was told to sit down. She was denied due process, a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The same body that had a shit fit when a vendor committed a technical violation of the Administrative Code, thinks that it's perfectly fine to trample the country's founding document.

Under the United States Constitution, the government cannot take our lives, liberty or property without due process of law. That's what sets government employees apart. They can't be fired or even be required to accept a significant pay cut without notice and an opportunity to be heard, unless it is an economic decision that affects everyone, as sometimes happens when people are laid off.

Before the government can shitcan or demote you, you have the right to what is sometimes called a Loudermill hearing, based on the Supreme Court decision recognizing that there is such a thing as due process for public employees..

When County Council on Thursday night defunded the mail room supervisor position, Ken Kraft's asserted there are "too many chiefs" and the position is redundant. He questioned this employee's qualifications as well. There is no position into which she can "bump". She was effectively fired. Kraft stated before the hearing that he was once fired at Christmastime, so I guess this is his payback.

Enclosed are some of my emails to Council, along with Kraft's replies.

Council,

Whatever savings you gained by defunding the mail room supervisor position on Thursday night, they will be more than offset by the money she is awarded when she sues you. It is clear to me, and I am sure your Solicitor will agree, that your mean-spirited action was a blatant violation of the procedural due process rights owed to the person you effectively fired. Merry Christmas.

I will refrain from getting into the obvious motives of a Council member who is also a union agent in advocating the elimination of a supervisory non-union position. I will not explore the attempts by Peg Ferraro to penalize the current mail room supervisor for the perceived sins of her predecessor. None of that matters. What does matter is that you fired a County employee at Christmas time without notice or an opportunity to be heard. In fact, when this 3-year employee attempted to defend herself, you told her to sit down, denying her the right to speak to a matter that directly affected her.

You were willing to engage in all kinds of back channel chatter about this person behind her back. But none of you had the basic integrity and decency to answer the insinuations and accusations you were making about her.

Instead of acting like a governing body, your actions are more akin to a star chamber that decides guilt or innocence without any evidentiary foundation. What you did to this person can be repeated against other employees who may rub you the wrong way.

Fortunately, the rights of this person and other citizens are protected under the United States Constitution. You, as the government, are prohibited from taking the life, liberty or property of a person without due process of law.

If you really are interested in saving money and wish to avoid a lawsuit, I suggest that you reverse course at your meeting this week.

You should all be ashamed of yourselves. I know I am ashamed and disgusted by each of you.

Kraft replies:

I do not like being falsely accused, we eliminated the funding of this position simply because it is no longer needed. I will not tolerate this accusatory type of email. It is our duty as a body to fund positions that are needed and to defund positions when they are no longer beneficial to the County. This is our job.

Moi:

Really? It is your job as a union agent to make sure you have union work. If you were really interested in saving money, you would not have insisted on a PLA at the new human services building.

I'd like to know what money you saved by opening up the county to a civil rights lawsuit based on a flagrant violation of procedural due process rights. Your actions were so despicable that I could see punitive damages.

The county just settled a civil rights claim predicated on your treatment of another employee. I can see you have learned nothing.

As a union agent, it is your job to screw nonunion employees. You refused to even look at the memo she prepared, and were too much of a coward to let her address you, face to face, as you tried to fire her.

Your actions, and those of the eight council members who went along with refusing to even let this woman speak, are shameful. More importantly, they violated the Constitution. I hope you have a Merry Christmas knowing that you fired someone without even listening to her side of the story.

You should be embarrassed. You should. I am embarrassed that people like you speak for me.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

There were a few more exchanges, but I think you get the point. Not one other Council member bothered to respond. They were probably Christmas shopping.

The three words that best describe Kraft
are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I will not tolerate this accusatory type of email"

REALLY!! IS THIS GUY FOR REAL. FORAN ELECTED OFFICIAL HE OSUND SLIKE A SELF-ABSORBED ARROGANT PRICK. FOR SOME TIME I HAVE HEARD HE IS THE DEMOPCRTAIC RON ANGLE WHEN IT COMES TO TEMPER BUT HAS NONE OF THE RON ANGLE CHARM. THAT ALWAYS SEEMED A BIT HARSH BUT I AM BEGINNING TO BELEIVE THAT IS TRUE.

HE DOES LASH OUT AT PEOPLE WHEN HE DISAGREES OR IF THEY DISAGREE WITH HIM.

THE REALLY SAD THING IS NOT THAT A COUNTY COUNCI MEMEBER WILL AT TIMES ACT IRRATIONALLY BUT THAT YOU CAN GET ALL OF THEM TO AGREE.

THAT IS VERY TROUBLING., ALSO THE SECRET NATURE OF THIS FIRING. THIS IS ALKMOST LIKE THE BULLYING OF THE FORMER HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR BUT EVEN MEANER.

BERNIE, I AM DISGUSTED BY AL THE MEMEBERS. FOUR OF THEM ARE LEAVING BUT FORE OF THEM REMAIN AND THEY ARE ALL GUILTY OF ABUSING THEIR POWWER.

Anonymous said...

Guilt by association? This is disturbing and I am disappointed that the remaining council people bought this load of garbage by Kraft. Not sure what to think. It smells of collusion and pandering and maybe it was a last shot..indirectly..at a departing Stoffa administration.

Anonymous said...

funny. I can remember many attempts by ron angle to defund positions held by reibman "hallwalkers". in several cases, the circumstances were almost identical to those here. at least one time, he succeeded, but the administration convinced council to reverse itself at a subsequent meeting.

never knew he implicated the US Constitution.

Kevin Cerino said...

Are there any cases where the Loudermill ruling has been applied in a situation where the position was actually eliminated?

Anonymous said...

Kevin the answe is no. Bernie will hope people don't read the case or do the research to find that out.

This person was the assistant director of administration an appointed position. As with the new Director of Orphans and Wills they moved these people into career service positions so they can only be terminated for cause or of the position is eliminated. Since the director of Orphans and Wills is not going to be eliminated she will be safe.

This has been going on for a year. Ken Mohr of Human Services Building fame was helping Luzerne County in forming their new government when they adopted their Home Rule Charter. Vic Mazziotti appeared there after becoming a Lehigh County Commissioner and they tried to get Ross Marcus in as the Director of Human Services, but that deal was too shady and the new council voted it down. So they snuck Ross into CACLV in violation of their contract.

Council is probably reacting to all this, but the fact is that this supervisor had to get council to approve her supervision over a one man print shop to beef up the job. She also does not handle the phone systems. Ask anyone at the courthouse. You call her for a phone problem she farms it out to the IT help desk. It's inefficient and council eliminated the inefficiency. This is the definition of good government.


Anonymous said...

@957...are you saying that this person was in an appointed, political position, and then tried sliding over into a protected careers service position?

if so, that's kinda cheap...

Anonymous said...

Having been "downsized" three times in my life, there's no good time for it to happen. I was canned a day before Yom Kippur in 1999. Would you prefer she was kept on through the holidays to perform, or not, her obsolete function? Her position has likely been obsolete for quite some time. While Kraft's style leaves much to be desired, he's done nothing wrong here. It's refreshing to actually see a needless government job eliminated. That day should be declared a county holiday.

Anonymous said...

@10:44 am: that's exactly what I'm saying. Funny how Bernie left that out!

Bernie O'Hare said...

&:17, and I was always opposed to this kind of nonsense from Council, whether from Angle or anyone else. The situations are not identical, though. Council had enough sense not to eliminate a job without due process.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Keven, If several positions are eliminated for purely budgetary reasons, as in the case of layoffs, Loudermill does not apply. I guess the constitutional translation would be "shit happens." The argument could be made that this is a purely budgetary move. But the facts belie that argument. Kraft questioned this woman's competence in a committee hearing. He said then there are "too many chiefs". Loudermill applies here.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This has been going on for a year. Ken Mohr of Human Services Building fame was helping Luzerne County in forming their new government when they adopted their Home Rule Charter. Vic Mazziotti appeared there after becoming a Lehigh County Commissioner and they tried to get Ross Marcus in as the Director of Human Services, but that deal was too shady and the new council voted it down. So they snuck Ross into CACLV in violation of their contract."

Then thus is clearly retaliatory and the Council is open to a civil rights suit. No wonder you won't sign your name. Let me get this straight. Because CACLV commits a technical violation of the Admin Code, you think you can step on the Constitution?

No wonder you won't sign your name.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This person was in what is called a career service job. It is not a political exempt position, and due process applies. You can do the right thing or listen to an asbestos lawyer and a union agent.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:57 inadverdently set forth the basis for this retaliatory termination. Council is still punishing Stoffa bc Marcus went to work for CACLV. Of course she does much more than supervise one person. Who administered the Citizen Academy? In fact, she had several pages outlining exactly what she does but Council refused to look at it and fired her. She was denied due process.

The County just paid a civil rights claim from an other person who was basically forced out of a job by them. That was much less clear than this one. They have learned nothing.

I'm sure a judge won't be troubled a bit by the timing of this, too, or Kraft's remark that he was once fired at Christmas.

This is a disgusting, mean-spirited action.

Anonymous said...

There is no question that Stoffa pulled many shady moves with the Ross Marcus situation. He and Jennings usded poor people to dare county council to do something.

With that you also had two county employees on the Board of CACLV, one of them Karner who has ben rewarded with a Bethlehem position.

Council may well feel it is time to stop the nonsense.
Do not be surprised of county council makes any CACLV contacts be bid. You will scream "the poor" but county council will say the "law", and people will cheer them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks for laying out your rationale more clearly. Instead of being concerned about this employee or her job performance, this is aimed at Stoffa, the most nonpolitical exec the county has ever seen. You have just established the basis for the lawsuit.

Unity PAC said...

O'Hare is a disbarred attorney, he will be tuning into WAEB early come January to hear the voice of reason.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tricia Mezzacappa, You have not filed the organization papers for the Unity pac for which you constantly seek money. In fact, you have not filed your own expense reports. Come early january, I expect to see you prosecuted.

Anonymous said...

i have to admit even though stoffa has pulledthe same type of things under the radar, to which you turned a blind eye ...this is an awful way to treat anyone and clearly unfair if they weren't willing to hear her out ..strikes me as personal very personal...and i think at stoffa ..he made appts. in wills ect... to protect his friends... failed this time ...and she suffered for it...

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am the person, and let me I add I am the only person, who exposed what happened in the Register of Wills office. I turned no blind eye to it, and in fact am the person who exposed it. What happened here, and the anonymous comments make that clear, is that Stoffa is being punished by firing people who are just trying to do their jobs. It is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

i agree...

Anonymous said...

the only problem with that is ...stoffa's not suffering for it he's leaving with a hefty pension...that woman on the other must be so distraught ...but that happens there unfortunately and stoffa knows of a few ...did nothing to stop or prevent it in the past in a most underhanded way ... i do feel something should be done it's s wrong ...i didn't vote for council to be in harger of firing people ...even if they want to call it unfunding it ! shame on ken kraft my mom always taught me 2wrongs don't make a right !

Bernie O'Hare said...

John Stoffa attempted to stop it. He did not confront Council bc that is not his style, but he opposed and does oppose this decision. Out of over 2000 positions, this woman was singled out to get at him. What Council seems n ot to realize is that the Executive is a separate branch of government imbued with incredible power, and Stoffa will make this right if Council does not see the light first.

Anonymous said...

I voted twice for John because I preferred him to his opponents. I don't like McClure one bit. I don't know Kraft. I don't understand or care to understand the inside baseball at the Government Center. I feel horrible for the lady, as I've been laid off several times in my life. I wish her the best, as it's a particularly tough environment for job seekers. But why would the county keep any position that is not necessary? The private sector unemployed, as I've been (recently for 14 months), are struggling to continue to pay their taxes and shouldn't be expected to pay for unnecessary positions. Shitty politics and shittier personal behavior notwithstanding, eliminating an unnecessary position is a good thing. The details of how it was announced suck.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If the position is unnecessary I would support its elimination. But that determination, if made by council, should come after a hearing in which it is listed as an agenda item, input is sought from the administration, and the person impacted is given notice and an opportunity to be heard. Because this is a personnel matter, this discussion could take place in executive session. But that is not what happened. Like a snake, Kraft went behind this woman's back and solicited support from council, as though it were a legislative matter. Peg Ferraro did it with the Rs. This woman, the person being fired, was never told. When she found out what they were up to, she went to Council and was told to sit down. They did not want facts to get in the way of a decision they had already made. I am appalled at every member of Council.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you are so full of it. You know so little km starting to find this whole post humorous. How do you know what council or Kraft or anybody was thinking? This is your personal spin, nothing more

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's no surprise to me that a prick like you would be amused by firing someone right before Christmas. Here is what is undisputed:

Kraft chairs the Personnel Committee;

Kraft conducted no hearings on whether that position is needed;

Kraft's motion to eliminate the position was not listed as an agenda item at any budget hearing;

Kraft's motion to eliminate the position was not listed as an agenda item at the Council hearing;

The employee was never advised by Council that they intended to eliminate her job;

When she attempted to defend her job, she was told to sit down.

It was a mean-spirited display that violated this worker 's due process rights. It does not matter what game they were playing, the violated the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

And the guy flies out to Vegas the next day, posting pictures on FB about his views form the Mirage...

Anonymous said...

If the amendment was not published, how did they know to show up on the Wednesday meeting?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Presumably she found out bc Kraft was bragging about it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Before he hopped on a plane to Vegas.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am deleting anonymous personal attacks aimed at Stoffa. If you want to attack him, sign your name and do it publicly. This blog does not operate the way Northampton County Council does.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Well the employee did get to make her case Wednesday night at the personnel meeting.. I assume most of council heard what she had to say then. Sounds like the council president got in wrong when he would not let her speak again the next night. Evidently she did convince most of them that she should keep her position. As to the two members who never got to hear her in the end they could not stop this if they wanted to. As it turned out the convinced took their case to the others and in the end they all thought her job was not needed. It could have and should have been handled better at the second meeting. The president didn't want to go through it again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The employee did not get to make her case. First of all, it was a Budget hearing, not a personnel committee hearing. Second, her matter was not listed as an agenda item. Third, Kraft refused to even read the documentation she supplied and instead challenged her competence. Fourth, several Council members were absent when she did speak. Fifth, at the Council meeting, her termination was not listed on the agenda. Sixth, she was not allowed to even speak on something that directly impacts her continued employment. Council members voted to terminate her without giving her notice or an opportunity to be heard. Yes, the president erred big time. It's a basic due process violation.

Anonymous said...

We support Mr. Kraft. You have only told part of the story. You have kept the Stoffa collusions a secret.

We are well aware of your duplicity. You cannot censure the facts.

Anonymous said...

if you are appointed to a political position, you get a pretty good job, without having to go through a fairly rigorous, rigid and bureaucratic hiring process. the downside to this is that when the administration ends, you lose your job. everyone knows the rules.

problems occur at the end of an administration, when some of these folks try to slide over into a protected, career service position. they use their "insider" status to influence the hiring process. essentially, a political appointee gets lifetime job security.

I have no sympathy for anyone who engages in this kind of conduct.

Anonymous said...

This employee will have due process. It doesn't happen at a County Council Meeting. It happens with a meeting before the Personnel Appeals Board. The HOME RULE CHARTER is very clear on this issue.
Article VIII PERSONNEL Section 803. Merit Personnel System Subpara (b) states the following
"RIGHTS OF MEMBERS. ANY APPOINTMENT, PROMOTION, TRANSFER, DEMOTION, SUSPENSION DISMISSAL, OR DISCIPLINARY ACTION SHALL BE IN ACCORDANCE WITH CAREER SERVICE REGULATIONS. ANY MEMBER WHO IS APPOINTED OR PROMOTED TO A POSITION IN THE CAREER SERVICE ON THE BASIS OF THE MERIT PERSONNEL SYSTEM SHALL RETAIN THAT POSITION WITHIN THE CAREER SERVICE AND SHALL NOT BE DEMOTED, SUSPENDED, DISMISSED OR DISCIPLINED EXCEPT FOR JUST CAUSE."
No where in the career service regulations does it give away the rights of employees. She can appeal this and then take it to court. The career service regulations gives her these rights.
On the other hand, you have employees doing other peoples work. How about Doran Hamman doing the work of the finance director. Why wasn't one of those jobs eliminated? He has been doing both jobs since Mazziotti left. You don't need both jobs. Doran has proven that. Stoffa has combined other jobs and given no compensation. Those are the jobs you should be looking at.
You could have eliminated the Register of Wills Position by combining that job into the Director of Court Services position. You certainly don't need the Director of Court Services.
The mail room position has a job description approved by County Council. Who is now doing that work? Those people have a right to have their job descriptions updated and a desk audit to see if they are warranted for a pay increase because of extra duties and responsibilities.
DAMN I'M GOOD. I should have been a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:33. Then she will keep this job appointment forever? Even when it's a hall walker job? That can't be true, Bernie?

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:33,. You are good.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:46, If it is a hall walker job, you conduct a hearing, giving everyone notice and an opportunity to be heard, and abolish the job. In other words, you follow due process of law. If it truly is unneeded, you could abolish the position without violating the HRC, but you follow the law. It's there to protect workers against arrogant Councils.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"if you are appointed to a political position, you get a pretty good job, without having to go through a fairly rigorous, rigid and bureaucratic hiring process. the downside to this is that when the administration ends, you lose your job. everyone knows the"

This is NOT a political position. Those patronage jobs are called "exempt" positions in the Admin Code and HRC. If this were an exempt position established under the HRC, then Council would be violating the HRC. This is a career service position. You can't be fired from a career service position without just cause.

Anonymous said...

i don't think she was fired--The job was just eliminated for funding. She could be given a different position by Stoffa.

Bernie O'Hare said...

She was effectively fired by Council's action. Stoffa does have incredible power, and he will fix this because he is not a prick like the 9 members of Council who stepped on the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

He is a prick, you just don't allow those who can tell you why.

Anonymous said...

Point is she WAS in an exempt position...and then somehow ended up I the career service position. Dont you think that has s8mething to do with this?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Absolutely. In the twisted minds of the politicos on Council, there has to be some deep dark secret. Stoffa is inserting some poor lady from Fogelsville into this job, and politics must be afoot! Did you ever consider the possibility that Stoffa does not think like you? He is interested in what is best for the county, while the rest of you play petty politics. In this case, you went too far and violated the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

The entire true story about this matter will never be told on this blog. This is as much a slam piece against Ken Kraft as it is a puff piece about John Stoffa.

Nothing new here.

Anonymous said...

" Did you ever consider the possibility that Stoffa does not think like you? He is interested in what is best for the county, while the rest of you play petty politics"


yes, yes, he would walk on water but for the holes in his feet.

just stop.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It bothers you, but no, he does not think like you people. He is motivated by the best interest of the county, while assholes like you have other agendas, from promoting unions to taking care of cronies. That is why people like you hate him. You tried to stop him every inch of the way. When he tried to hire Marta Gabriel, you said No. You tried to stop his plan for open space, for centralized human services, appointments, budgetary requests, etc. Now that he is leaving, you decide to fire someone whose sole sin is that she works for him. It's a career service job, but one of you probably is looking for a job for a nephew or a niece.

Stoffa does not and never has played the games that you hacks, from Ken Kraft to Peg Ferraro, consider business as usual. That is why you have always hated him.

Anonymous said...

actually, I don't hate him. I support many of the initiatives you mention.

but stoffa is not without sin. political appointees sliding over into protected, career service positions at the end of an administration is low. it is also an example of cronyism.

fact is, Stoffa may very well not be behind it, or even aware of it. but it happened on his watch. he's responsible.

Anonymous said...

This story reminds me of the illegal firing of Bangor Police Chief Kerrigan by exec-elect Brown. Save the county/boro pennies, cost it thousands (or hundreds of thousands). Brown will fit in well with this clown.

Bernie O'Hare said...

But what you don't get is that she is no crony and Stoffa is not political. The job opened up bc Fowler retired. This woman was one of several applicants pursuant to the Admin Code. Frankly I would have preferred to see the job go to someone else, and think the way these jobs are selected needs to be revisited. But if you are saying exempt people should not be able to apply, say so. Right now, they do not lose rights simply because they are appointed.

So far as I know, nobody broke any laws in choosing this woman as the director of admin services. But Council did not like the hire, so they violated the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

Stop Bernie. Stoffa even put one of his old girl employee friends into an HR position.
He Is no saint, just another shifty pol.

Bernie O'Hare said...

... says someone who won't even sign his name.

Anonymous said...

The Bangor police chef needed to go and he did not get any money. Get your facts if you want to be an attack dog. Brown is a good man and that bothers those who are not....he will have his hands full with this council and I think he gets more votes from Scott then Peg. Scott may like Gracedale but other then that he is fiscally sound. He does not like spending taxpayers money. He is actually more on the right then Peg. Watch him. The libs hate him but he is okay with that too. Look no further then the far left for the haters and the juvenile with the temper tantrums . We see it all of the time. We are busy with loving spouses and children along with others so we don't do the hate and tantrum thing well but we are learning that's the way to talk to the progressive left. Ever take a good look at the group?????

Anonymous said...

anion 4:06 are you high?? You sound like a closet gay. Enough with the I am married. is that something that you obsess over.

Parsons is toast in the next election. Parsons did not win, Ron Angle lost -big difference.

Any half decent Republican on the ticket beats parsons in District four.

Anonymous said...

And Cusick will clean McClure's clock if he runs for that district seat in 2 years

Anonymous said...

Was Ken Kraft responsible for the elimination of the Director of Forensic Service's position NORCO used to have?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No. I'm not aware we had one. Kraft did vote for Deputy Coroner positions at a much higher payscale than was previously authorized.

Anonymous said...

Is Cusick in district three? If that is true, game over for McClure. By the end of 2015, I predict the county council will have only one Democrat left on council.

Anonymous said...

I heard Parsons is running for the new senate seat? Really Barney Rubble!?

Anonymous said...

Yabba-Dabba-Doo!

Anonymous said...

Parsons ego is twice as tall as Parsons. The guy won by default and already think she is a state senator. LOL!!!