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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Why NorCo Council Needs To Approve Major Pay Raises

Cathy Allen's 19% Payjike Needed Council Approval
For the past six weeks, Executive John Brown has been sparring with NorCo Council and Controller Steve Barron over the Executive's authority to award pay increases to those who deserve it. Brown, who comes from Corporate America, has often stated that government should run more like business. If he wants to award pay increases to employees who help him achieve that goal, he feels that is his prerogative. Over the course of his first year in office, he increased Deputy Director Cathy Allen's salary by 19.3%. He also approved "temporary" raises for her and other top officials who had assumed the roles of vacant cabinet slots. He has continued paying these higher sums even though those slots have been filled. Council Solicitor Phil Lauer has ruled that these increases are illegal because they fly in the face of various provisions of the Home Rule Charter and Career Service Regulations. Who is right? Does it matter?

The danger in discussing this topic is that, for most readers, the eyes begin to glaze over after the third or fourth provision of the Home Rule Charter is mentioned, to say nothing of the Career Service Regulations and Employee Policies Manual. So let me diverge from Phil Lauer's opinion to explain why these provisions matter.

There are approximately 2,200 County employees. The whole point of what must seem like arcane provisions to many of you, is to promote a system in which all employees are treated fairly. Advancement should be based on what one knows, not cronyism. Though 75% of the workforce is now scattered into 11 different bargaining units, the principles in career service regulations still apply for someone who wants to move from one department to another, or who needs to test for a job.

One of the most important of these rules gives Council a say if an Executive wants to reward a favorite employee.

The County's Career Service Regulations require Council's assent to any pay reclassification that bumps anyone up more than one "step" in the pay scale. That prevents a boss from playing favorites with cronies. It prevents a rewarded employee from promoting a bad policy simply because it is part of the Executive's agenda. It minimizes the resentment that inevitably arises when one person is rewarded and others are not. It assures the public that the people who are working in different positions are there because they deserve to be there.

Brown moved Deputy Director Cathy Allen up three steps in her pay grade, in violation of these rules. He them gave her a "temporary" raise on top of that because she had assumed some of the duties of retired HR Director Pat Siemiontkowski. He awarded similar "temporary" payhikes to two other top officials in the HR department, who had also assumed some of Pat's duties. But when Tracie Barnes was brought on board as Pat's successor, he continued paying this "temporary" increase. That's another violation of Career Service Regulations.

Why did Brown ignore Council, especially when the top officials in HR should know the rules? This could simply be a combination of inexperience and naivete. But the danger here is that Brown is singling out certain people for special treatment, at the expense of other workers and the public. Mind you, these are HR officials, the people who make decisions concerning everyone else. How can they possibly apply the rules to others fairly when they are winking at their own violations?

It appears that has already happened. According to a report from Controller Steve Barron to Council that was just issued yesterday, 54 workers have received "out of class" pay hikes since the beginning of 2014. At this point, it is unclear to Barron just how many of these increases were approved by Council. That obviously needs to be investigated.

Interestingly, one of these HR officials was involved in the fiasco earlier this year when county workers found they had no prescription coverage. Employees being tested for different positions are being asked questions about items that have nothing to do with the job, ensuring their failure and the promotion of someone else.

So though the temptation is to yawn when hearing about CSR Section 4.01 or Home Rule Charter Section 202(11), what is at stake is a competent government instead of one that is infested by cronies. Eventually, that leads to public corruption and it destroys what little is left of employee morale.

Updated 9:40 am: A reader asked for a copy of Barron's memo. It can be seen here.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh great another one of these HR issues? This nonsense is still going on? So who are they sleeping with now?

Anonymous said...

"Brown, who comes from Corporate America"



Can we stop repeating that? Cause I'm not sure it's accurate. No one still knows this guy's background. Hows about we try:

"Brown, who claims to come from Corporate America"

Anonymous said...

"...Corporate America ..."

Wow. Note the capital C. It's as if corporate America is ISIS. This, from a failure who washed out of Legal America. Business people and doctors work their asses off so lawyers who drank and snorted coke through college can feed on them like the vultures they are. You represent the team that kicked you off, well.

Anonymous said...

Well put Bernie. Career Service Regulations, The Administrative Code, and The Home Rule Charter are all written to avoid this type of sleazy conduct. This is corruption. Anytime you give pay raises or take any action in violation of a "law" you have corrupted the system. What once served as a model personnel system has become a laughing stock creating by those with no morals and approved by a legislative body whose silence on the matter is deafening. If Council does not act, this must be passed onto the ATTORNEY GENERALS OFFICE FOR INVESTIGATION AND POSSIBLE CORRUPTION CHARGES. Malfeasance and misfeasance run rampant here.Why isn't Council taking any action? They are as guilty as the administration.

Anonymous said...

Your letter to the Attorney General has been referred to this office for reply.
The Office of Attorney General does not have jurisdiction to investigate home rule charter
violations. You may wish to contact the State Ethics Commission to determine if the Commission
would be of assistance to you in this matter.
Please know that we are making this referral based on the information provided in your letter and
understand that it will be up to the agency officials receiving the referral to determine whether they can
be of any assistance.
State Ethics Commission
Office of Chief Counsel
P.O. Box 11470
Harrisburg, PA 17108
Phone: 717-783-5130

The State Ethics Commission does not have the jurisdiction either.

Only the ballot box.

Anonymous said...

I Cannot Think of One Single Good Thing John Brown Has Done! Other Than Enrich Himself!

Anonymous said...

northampton county government is now a sewer.

Anonymous said...

The Controller's report that you speak of, where can I get a copy? I've been doing my job, as well as two other positions, that were not filled, that are out of class and I have not been compensated. I am not protected with union status, so any remedy would be detrimental because of backlash from this administration. I'm thinking it's about time to stick up for myself, through litigation.

Anonymous said...

8:47..Do what you got to do. Justice for all should be the unions motto..not justice for our people only! When are the unions going to finally come to the conclusion that they must act unilaterally for all the workers? Wake up!

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Wow. Note the capital C. It's as if corporate America is ISIS"

No, it's an accurate description of the environment fronm which Brown comes. It is Corporate America, and that is hardly a bad thing. One of the Council canidates, Lorin Bradley, comes from Corporate America, too. That is by no means ISIS and i made no such comparison. That was you, and you are obviously driven by hatred of me, not of what I write.

The corporate environment is helpful in government, but government is not a business and can't be run like a business. Moreover, the practiceof picking a few cronies that you wish to reward at the expense of everyone else would probably be frowned on in Corporate America, too.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:08, The union is there to protect the people it represents. It is not there to protect everyone.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:47, I have copied and linked to the report in an update to my post.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, BO. I would need to show a pattern of bias by this administration. 54 times of giving to some and not to hundreds of others that have to work out of class because of work force reduction is unfair and definitely a pattern set by this administration.

Anonymous said...

8:47. I am in the exact same boat as you. We need to get together, identify all of us who are in this situation and begin a class action law suit against Northampton County. It has gone on entirely too long.

Anonymous said...

I don't hate you or anyone. I simply have no respect for personal and professional failures like you. Everybody deserves a second chance. But it doesn't change their status from asshole to non-asshole. If "Corporate America" is not as problematic as you say, then why stress it at all. Because you typed before you thought. That's why, asshole.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I can't believe someone is offended at my use of capital letters in this context, and suggest it says far more about you than me. Also, it seems strange that you would waste your time commenting on the blog of someone you consider both a personal and a professional failure.

Anonymous said...

You can judge a man's character by the company he keeps. Brownie fawns over his Slate Belt crony Allen, wishing he had 10 more bozos like her. She cheated on her expense account, arranged to have personal friends hired, mucked around with overpaid contractors, and was rewarded for her skullduggery with a 19% raise. Brown's judgment is seriously impaired, and he is not fit to run the county.

Anonymous said...

But it doesn't change their status from asshole to non-asshole.

One thing is certain. You're an asshole through and through. Why are you slumming here, when you could be doing... whatever it is you do? What a tool.

Anonymous said...

@8:47, I'm with you, it's as if I wrote your post. Think it's time for me to consult a lawyer for some advice too.

Peter J.Cochran said...

The worker bee's are untitled to a step up if they preform satisfactory. To not pay them what they are worth is a mis-carriage of employment . What happens then is you lose key people that don't subscribe to that bull shit.

Peter J.Cochran said...

ANON 4'47 --Personal integrity IS the only thing a man has ,standing nude before a committee of condemns.No pay off ,no friends ,no outside influences to effect the judgement. Personally ,privately I would HANG unscrupulous political personalities FROM BRIDGES with signs that say ; I screwed you the tax payer>but that only me.