But what about other judicial employees? Do they put in a full forty hours? Probably most of them do, but it's very hard to provide the oversight that is very common with other County workers. Once you ask too many questions, the phrase "judicial discretion" is uttered, which is kinda' like dipolmatic immunity on a local level. So when you ask whether law clerks really work forty hours a week, everyone gets all indignant and insulted.
But last year, Controller Steve Barron was given a glimpse into the inner workings of judicial employees when he looked at what was going on at the DUI Center. He refuses to discuss it with me, and I've only pieced this together as a result of what I've heard after I began writing about tipstaffs. It reveals that tipstaffs are not the only judicial employees getting paid for nothing. Let me tell you the story of Curious George.
Back in 1989, then DA Don Corriere created a DUI Center for the efficient processing of suspected drunk drivers. The courts ended up supervising the Center until 2007, when it dawned on them that if they are the bosses, they could hardly be called neutral and detached arbiters of the findings made at the DUI Center. Former Sheriff Jeff Hawbecker got stuck supervising the Center, but it was too much of a headache, and he shoved it off on DA John Morganelli in 2008.
When that happened, Controller Steve Barron could actually able to review the payments made to county workers who at one time worked under the supervision of the Courts. That's how he learned about Curious George Bruneio, who worked there.
How Bruneio got the job is anybody's guess. Some say he took a test. Others claim he's pals with Deputy Court Administrator Jill Cicero and her husband.
One thing is certain. He does pretty well for himself. Curious George was paid $46,804.76 in 2007. In addition to a base pay of $36,246.78, he received $1,376.46 in vacation, $1,452.93 in holidays, $841.17 in personal days, $1,000 in longevity pay and a whopping $5,887.42 for on-call time. Oh yeah, he also drove to and from the DUI Center in an County-owned car.
So what's the big deal? We have a full-time employee who makes a bit extra. So what?
Well, Curious George has another full-time job, too. You see, in addition to telling people to repeat the alphabet at the DUI Center, he's also Freemansburg's full-time police chief. The courts claimed George was an exempt salaried employee, kinda' like tipstaffs. But if that is so, how the hell did he get nearly $6,000 in oncall time in 2007?
Bruneio got on-call time pretty consistently over the years.
2004: 308 hours at $5,391.54.
2005: 406 hours at $7,427.73.
2006: 504 hours at $9,427.32.
2007: 308 hours at $5,887.42.
That totals $28,134.01 above and beyond the regular pay of a County worker, and one who just happens to be Freemansburg's full-time police chief. It is very questionable whether Curious George was always on-call in that way. I am sure there is a lack of documentation.
When DA Morganelli took over the DUI Center operations in 2008, he stopped the on-call pay to Bruneio.
Despite a directive from County Exec John Stoffa, Curious George continued to drive a County car back and forth from home to work. His home, incidentally, is in Springtown, Bucks County. That continued until a few months ago, when the DA grabbed the car for one of his detectives.
Now, if you haven't decided about Curious George yet, listen to the story told by phlebotomist Gidget Mock. She worked under Bruneio at the DUI Center between 2003 and 2005, and ultimately sued on claims that he and others sexually harassed her. When she told Bruneio, he twice directed her to report to his Freemansburg office. No part of the DUI Center is located there. Here's her version, as summed up by a federal judge.
"In February or March of 2004, Mock went to see Bruneio at his office in Freemansburg to complain about the inappropriate behavior of Marshall and McClymont. When Mock walked into his office, Bruneio got up from his seat, and acted like he was going to close the door behind her. Instead, he cornered Mock, and asked her if she was wearing a padded bra.The County ultimately settled with Mock for close to $80,000. Curious George still works for the County.
"Mock told Bruneio that she did not appreciate his comment. She also stated at that time that she wanted all the comments about her lingerie to stop. In a later incident, Bruneio attempted to touch her breasts when he walked past her in a corridor at the DUI Center.
"In August, 2004, Mock again met with Bruneio at his Freemansburg office, and during this meeting, Bruneio made contact with her breast. Like the previous encounter earlier in the year, Mock entered the office, and Bruneio got up to shut the door. After closing it, Bruneio escorted Mock to a chair, and touched her breast while doing so. Mock attested to the fact that Bruneio said after he touched her breast that he was happy to know that she was not wearing a padded bra that day. Further, when Mock then got up to leave, Bruneio acted like he was going to 'smack [her] ass' as she walked by him. Mock said that Bruneio frequently acted like he was going to 'smack [her] ass.'"
Whether it is bogus hours or sexual harassment, this is what you can expect when one branch of government refuses to allow the kinds of oversight common everywhere else. It creates an atmosphere of corruption in which the kids-for-cash scheme conmcocted by two Luzerne County judges becomes all too possible.
Northampton County Coubncil President Ron Angle has called a special meeting of the County's Finance Committee on Wednesday at 1 PM to discuss this "judicial discretion" gone awry. Controller Barron has been invited.