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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, September 09, 2016

Third Circuit Agrees NorCo Violated Due Process Rights of Ex-Solicitor

Jill Mancini
No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. That's pretty basic stuff. It is enshrined in our federal and state Constitution. In a precedential opinion, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals has agreed. In a ruling handed down late today, the Court ruled that the due process rights of a Democratic full-time assistant Northampton County solicitor were violated when she was fired by a newly installed Republican administration. Jill Mancini, who is now in private practice, can look forward to a $94,232 payday. In addition, Allentown Attorney Pat Reilly, who represented her, will collect at least $186,018.60 in attorney’s fees and costs.

Mancini received word that she was being let go on December 23, 2013, just two days before Christmas. Rather than tell her in person, then Solicitor Vic Scomillio dropped this bomb on Mancini from his cell phone, while he was driving.

Mancini had contended all along that hers was a career service position, and that there would need to be "just cause" for her termination. The County countered that her position was never career service because the County failed to follow its own rules in creating this job. The County also argued that, even if she was career service, it could always fire her as a result of a reorganization of the department, even a sham reorganization designed to target her.

Speaking for the Court, Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo rejected these arguments.
"This case requires us to consider whether there is an exception to the ordinary requirements of procedural due process when a government employee with a protected property interest in her job is dismissed as part of a departmental reorganization that results in the elimination of her position. We have not previously considered this so called “reorganization exception.” We hold that a reorganization exception to constitutional procedural due process cannot apply as a matter of law where, as here, there is a genuine factual dispute about whether the reorganization was pretext for an unlawful termination."
Concluding that Mancini was a career service employee, the Court held that she was entitled to a meaningful pretermination hearing.

Judge Restrepo also was also concerned that the reorganization leading to Mancini's dismissal was just a pretext to get her out of the way.
"Evidence of pretext included the following. Scomillio and [Executive John] Brown decided to reorganize the Solicitor’s Office shortly after Brown was elected County Executive in November 2013, even before he took office. Brown testified that when he asked Scomillio to consider a reorganization, Brown did not know what the budget of the Solicitor’s Office was and he did not have any personal knowledge of whether the office was running efficiently. Without any investigation, without asking Human Resources to conduct a desk audit to determine the volume of work, and without looking at solicitors offices in comparable counties, Scomillio recommended, based on his knowledge of who was on the staff of the Solicitor’s Office, that they shift the work of the full-time solicitors to part-time solicitors. Scomillio had experience with the individuals he planned to hire as part-time solicitors and he believed they would work more efficiently than the existing staff."
Solicitor Vic Scomillio would later go on to run for judge ... and lose Executive John Brown, who admitted he wanted to unload Mancini without even looking at the department budget, is currently running for state auditor general.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Will the county appeal? What a crock that a gold digger like Mancini won this case. She was given the job without any competition and her solicitor/boyfriend breaking the rules to hire her, then has the nerve to whine about her termination. Guess from the county's standpoint it is worth $300 K to get rid of her sorry ass. She will never work for a municipality again. She is toxic waste. Smart move, Jill.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The county could file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, but it is highly unlikely it would be considered. So as a practical matter, this ends the case. It is true that she was improperly hired, but that is the county's fault, not hers. You seem to want her held responsible for the county's mistake. She was denied procedural due process, i.e. notice and the opportunity to be heard. The Constitution applies to everyone, even people you don't like. Bottom line is that this was a bone-headed move.

Anonymous said...

Now the tru questions, how much extra did this cost the county? Is it paid by our insurance? Is that going to now go up in cost? Why did brown not listen to councilman Scott parsons when he told them not to appeal along with County Council Ds?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:15 seems to be a little bitter about this case. this person is a vicious individual who has to be part of the Brown Administration. This person claims Mancini, without competition, which means she never took a competitive exam for the job, was improperly hired. There is a County legal opinion by a Council Solicitor that stated, lawyers, doctors, and professionals in certain fields are automatically deemed qualified by their education in the appropriate field and don't have to take competitive tests.
It is the arrogance of Scomillio and Brown that got the County in this mess, not Mancini and that arrogance is what defeated Scomillio for judge. Brown has treated the County employees like crap and still does till this day.
This isn't over yet. More costs will be forthcoming. At least another one hundred to two hundred thousand dollars because Brown is too dumb and arrogant to do the right thing. That's okay but remember this, as long as this issue stays in the headlines, Scomillio doesn't ever have to worry about being elected to a judgeship, and Brown doesn't have to worry about being re-elected Executive.

Anonymous said...

Brown and his cadres, [we know who they are], believe partisanship politics rule over law. Once again this moron, {who has a limited and shady background}, was proved wrong costing the county thousands of more dollars. Thank God his days are numbered one way or the other. Maybe we can then focus on the council people who support him.

Anonymous said...

7:15 thank you Karl or Jill for your input. No one said Mancini wasn't qualified for the job. But the county, ironically in this case it's legal representative hired Jill by ignoring career service regulations. Karl hired her as if she was an exempt employee. She was hired illegally then runs to the courts like a spoiled baby when she is dismissed. Karma is a bitch though. She will never work in government again. Unless her sugar daddies Karl or Scott get elected CE. Chances of that are none and none.

Anonymous said...

8:12 You just don't get it. She, by her law degree automatically qualifies her to be hired as the asst. solicitor without any testing. She was hired within the guidelines of the Career Service Regulations. But obviously you know more than the Judges who heard this case. Were you there when she was hired? What are your sources. Mine are the Home Rule Charter and the Career Services Regulations and A legal determination made by a appellant court. They all totally disagree with you.

Anonymous said...

No testing may be required, but career service regulations require that there be three qualified candidates to be considered for the position and interviews. All of that was bypassed to hire Karl's darling. She was hired as if she were exempt, pure and simple.

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:23, It's pretty clear that career service regulations were ignored in hiring her, either bc the fix was in or bc the county has a tendency to screw up everything. This argument was made, and it was rejected by the jury, the court below, and this one. You are just repeating the same point made in the first comment. A bad argument does not get better as a result of repeating it over and over. The fact that the county failed to follow its own rules is no reason to penalize an employee. And i am astonished that the county would actually argue that a sham reorganization could be done to target an employee. That is bad faith. To even make that argument demonstrates a lack of a moral compass. There is little doubt in my mind that the county will be paying another $100k in attorney fees.

Anonymous said...

And AGAIN I AM GLAD VIC WAS NOT ELECTED... shows what a stupid ass he really is.... Its JUST ANOTHER BRWON STAIN FOLKS... SUCK IT UP TAXPAYERS....

Anonymous said...

Career Service employees have been hired for decades the same way that she was hired. Take a look at the "Doctor's position" at the Prison. She is qualified by her degree in law and he is qualified by his Degree in Medicine. There is a solicitor's opinion confirming the practice. It may not seem right to you but it is the County Law. Even giving your concept the benefit of the doubt, she as an individual did nothing wrong. She is not responsible for the hiring practices of the County and it was not her concern (nor should it be) how the County Conducted the interview. Once she was hired, it became the County's responsibility to follow the law even if they didn't follow the law when she was hired. She was there for more than a year and no one complained, not even County Council. The Courts sided with her. SORRY YOU LOSE.

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:59, Your question is answered here. http://lehighvalleyramblings.blogspot.com/2015/01/norco-spent-49000-defending-mancini.html . The county had spent nearly $50k for their lawyers by this time last year. Their deductible is $50k, so the county has probably paid all it is going to have to pay its lawyers. This will no doubt have an impact on furture premiums.

Anonymous said...

The 5 councilmen and the one executive who keep us in this mess are ALL up for re-election next year.

who wants to bet that the people forget and the only ones to come out and vote will be the Fringe Trump/Tea baggers?

prediction

R = 5 wins
D = 0 wins

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you are absolutely correct in your comments. An additional 100,000 dollars is a small number. You not only have the attorney's fees, you have lost wages plus other issues here. She may even sue for her job back. Hardee, Har, har.

Anonymous said...

11:10, I did not lose, the taxpayers of the county lost. Jill took full advantage of her hiring opportunity. To portray her as a victim is ludicrous. Her benefactor boyfriend should have lost his job for fraternizing with a subordinate. Jill was the biggest complainer in the county about her compensation. She used Karl to beg council to give her a raise. Oh yeah, that was certainly admirable for your martyr Mancini. The reorganization was designed to eliminate FT assistant solicitor positions, thus saving the county money on pension costs and other FT benefits. The other FT assistant solicitor Mike was dismissed as well, but he did not moan and groan like drama queen Jill. It is absurd to make Jill a martyr when she took advantage of every loophole and favoritism in the county to get her job, and to try to benefit herself financially. It is a shame the county was unable to make a better case dispelling her cries of first amendment violations.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:32, It makes no difference what you, I, or anyone thinks of Mancini. She is entitled to due process, and did not get it. The court was made aware that the incoming administration had little regard for her abilities, but that is no excuse for a sham reorganization to deprive her of her constitutional rights. A jury, district court judge and now, the second highest court in this country, all agree. Repeating the same bad argument is no help.

Anonymous said...

It was not a "sham reorganization." It made perfect sense. But the courts and you have no common sense so what else is new?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Gee, how lucky we are to have an anonymous reader who knows more than me or the courts. This display of "common sense" by the county is going to cost taxpayers well over $400,000 to say nothing of soft costs. It may very well have been a sham reorganization. Brown had no idea what the budget was in that office, and both he and Scomillio said they wanted to get rid of Mancini. Establishing just cause would take too long, so they stepped all over her constitutional rights. According to the circuit court opinion, the county actually argued it had the right to concoct a sham reorganization to get rid of someone. Making that kind of argument to a court created to protect the constitution is just incredibly stupid. It did not play well with citizens either. They rejected Scomillio in favor of a guy who said everyone, big and small, has a right to be heard. While i doubt this ruling will have much impact on Brown's statewide race, it will hurt him if he dares run for Exec again.

Anonymous said...

This is Northampton county, what do you expect? From jobs from vendors to ignoring test scores on new hires. This is how it has been done for many years.

Anonymous said...

Brown has been a stumblebum since day one. He will get slaughtered in the AG election. The most compelling evidence of his incompetence is his trust in that two bit hack Cathy Allen.

Anonymous said...

Don't piss on Brown. He inherited a hiring and operational mess. This was a screwed up hire to begin with. Rules were bent and personal relationships came in to play. You had county law violated by allowing an appointed director to be hired by one of his contractors. You had problems with promotions within certain departments. It was a real mess that Stoffa handed Brown. So while it may be politically correct on tis blog to attack Brown. he was not the person who created all these employee irregularities.

Anonymous said...

5:35AM You are partly correct. Northampton County sued Stoffa over the numerous violations of Career Service Regulations during his administration and Council won. Look at how he screwed over the employee in the Registrar of Wills Office and gave the job to Mancini's secretary. Stoffa was bad news for the County Employees and their rights and all the trouble we have today is because Stoffa ignored the rules. His administration hired Mancini. Bernie is right. This doesn't give Brown the right to violate the rules and ignore someone's right to due process. Stoffa was a schmuk when it came to treating employees fairly. Brown unfortunately is twice as bad.

Anonymous said...

The Register of Wills position was handled properly. There was no violation of any rules. This urban myth was created by the disgruntled who didn't get the job. So enough bullshit on that situation. Stoffa allowed Mancini to be hired by her boyfriend. His only fault in hindsight was to trust Karl.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So while it may be politically correct on tis blog to attack Brown. he was not the person who created all these employee irregularities."

Unless John Stoffa put a gun n to Brown's head and told him to fire Mancini,this is all on Brown and his Solicitor, Vic Scomillio. Whether she was hired improperly, and I think she was, that is no basis for stepping on her constitutional rights. Two courts and one jury have now reached this conclusion.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Stoffa was a schmuk when it came to treating employees fairly. Brown unfortunately is twice as bad."

The employees of Northampton County would love to have Stoffa as their boss again, now that they've witnesses Brown. Unlike Brown, who pretended to be friendly when he was first in office and had so-called Brown bag lunches, Stoffa knew who people were by their name and listened to them. Ask the custodians what they thought of Stoffa.

But this post is NOT about him, and the attempt to drag him in to this is an off topic and anonymous slur intended to divert attention away from this ruling.

Anonymous said...

Is this a serious discussion or not? One of many hit pieces on Brown. Yet he is only doing what his predecessor did or trying to clean up some of the mess's he was left. That is what this lawsuit is about. The problem is you are more interested in slamming Brown that having an honest discussion. The Mancini hire was BS. It was like most personnel decisions by the Stoffa Admisntration, all about what they wanted to do and the Hell with any rules. In fact Brown got advice after his election from the Republicans on council that had worked hand in glove with Stoffa and even Stoffa himself. Whether it was the fiasco in the Registrar of Wills or the deal with a county vendor to give his appointee a job and violate county law. The entire Admisntration job policy was who do you know and don't worry about it.

As for the love of employees, you are really selling a rotten apple on that one. Brown is not at all liked for his benefit cuts. Stoffa was not trusted at all. The real employees know how he tried to fire over a third of the county employees and played one union off against the other. Of course people will tell you they love him because they read your blog and know you would destroy them if they were honest about Stoffa.
The only difference between Brown and Stoffa is that Stoffa had the newspapers and your blog covering his ass on everything and Brown is crucified for doing the same things.

Bernie O'Hare said...

As I have indicated twice now, how Mancini was hired is irrelevant to the question whether she was afforded due process. That is what both courts concluded. This was no hit piece on Brown, but was a factual accounting of a judicial ruling against the county. Your reaction and willingness to blame everyone else is an indication of your own agenda.

Anonymous said...

anon 6:24, agree the county has never had a fair hiring an promotion policy. I saw first hand what you describing.