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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tipstaffs Receiving Full Pay For PT Jobs

Yesterday, in the course of looking into the tipstaff issue, I learned that at least one tipstaff has been getting paid for eighty hours every pay period, even though he's only rarely here.

"That's called THEFT. The DA and/or Controller should investigate." That's how one of you responded, and it spurred me on to make more inquiries. What I've learned is that virtually all tipstaffs are paid for 80 hours every pay period, regardless whether they are here. I learned they are paid as hourly, and not salaried, employees.

That's an imprtant distinction. Hourly employees must be physically present.

What this means, therefore, is that someone is filling time cards that falsely report eighty hour pay periods. Even if you believe tipstaffs are justified and that judicial operations must be given great deference, how can you pay people for hours that have never been worked?

I called Court Accountant Badaoui Boulous, who takes care of the payroll for judicial employees. He referred all questions to his boss, Court Administrator Jim Onembo.

I then called Onembo, who told me that tipstaffs perform a "vital function" and that the courts "do a pretty effective job with the dollars we're allocated." I agree that the courts run efficiently, but why are the tipstaffs being paid for 40 hour weeks when they are not here 40 hours, as required by the Wage & Hour Act.?

Onembo stated tipstaffs are "considered full time," but was "not going to indicate they work forty hours." He added, "It is what it is." Whatever that is.

What's clear is that these workers are being paid for 80 hours every pay period, even though they work less. Onembo suggested that perhaps the hourly rate should be bumped up and employees only paid for the hours they actually work.

Clearly, something needs to change. You don't pay public employees for hours they have not worked. I have no wish to attack the integrity of these people, but in the eyes of many members of the publcic, this is stealing.


Anonymous said...

Here's the problem. If they are doing personal errands for judges such as chauffeuring them around, then they probably work a 40 hour week. End of argument.

Oh, you are going to say that they should not be doing that type of work as part of their job.

Who's right or wrong on this one?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am sure they do some personal errands and that some weeks, they may work 40 hours. I am just as certain that they usually work considerable less. I also believe the W&H Act may require them to work at the courthouse.

Anonymous said...

If they are doing personal errands, are they putting in for mileage or using county vehicles?

Anonymous said...

This is a stink all over it. Wonder if the same thing is going on in Lehigh County?

If true (and based on what you were told Bernie it sure looks like it is) it's yet another reason why taxpayers are angry.

The Banker

Bernie O'Hare said...

"If they are doing personal errands, are they putting in for mileage or using county vehicles?"

I've never seen a tipstaff drive a county-owned vehicle.

Anonymous said...

the timing of this all makes Ron Angle look petty. If he hadn't insulted a judge last week and had been talking about this when the budget was clearly going south, I'd be inclined to seperate the two items. As it is, right now, it is very hard to take anything coming out seriously b/c it is all in teh context of Ron Angle and his petty vendetta.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Wonder if the same thing is going on in Lehigh County"

That's worth examining. I know they have a similar system, with one court crier and one tipstaff perjudge, but do not know how they are paid.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"the timing of this all makes Ron Angle look petty."

This has nothig to do with Angle and is the result of my own research. Angle was looking into 5% cuts long before Franciosa's decision. And that's why the court should have recsed itself. Angle asked them to do so twice. What you are doing is saying that no one can examine the court's budget, and that's ridiculous. Let's be fair. Let's be respectful to the court and recognize they try hard. But let's ask questions. In some cases, we may be right.

No matter how you feel about tipstaffs or Angle, you cannot be happy to hear that peple are being paid for hours they have not worked.

Anonymous said...

If Onembo thinks paying double for half the work is "pretty good," he needs to be gone yesterday. His mind set is why we're so screwed by government gold bricks. I'm about to get sick.

Anonymous said...

People complain about union workers, these government types are the worst...

Anonymous said...

Agree. Although many are one and the same.

Anonymous said...

"No matter how you feel about tipstaffs or Angle, you cannot be happy to hear that peple are being paid for hours they have not worked."

Sure it's upsetting, but knowing politics and Ron Angle, he knew for a while and was just sitting on the info until he could use it to serve himself. I am being honest here: it is really difficult to not see the connection between an embarrassed Ron Angle and these latest revelations. If Cusik was the one pushing these cuts and this information came forward, it would be a different ball game, but it's not.

This does beg a very fundamental question: Ron has been on council for a long time. He either a)knew this stuff was going on but decided to hold the cards until it was convenient (also turning a blind eye to bad government) or b) didn't know and has done absolutely nothing to know. He is either a political hack who is grossly irresponsible or a lazy bum. Which did the Slate Belt elect?

The disconnect between Ron the grandstander who tries to watch for the taxpayer and Ron who ends up in leadership rests in these moments. Ron has really never accomplished anything in his political career and it's starting to show now that he is expected to get something done.

Anonymous said...

Now, will the DA and/or Controller investigate those within the Judiciary administration that are responsible for the coverup of this theft? As a taxpayer, I demand it. If I remember correctly, the same thing happened in the Prison and those responsible were investigated by the DA County Detectives and were fired. But are the Courts under a different standard? I want an answer from Morganelli or Barron.

Anonymous said...

People don't have integrity if they are stealing.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how this doesn't snowball, especially if it hits the ET.

The MC won't run with it unless it happens to be on the AP wire.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe the arrogance of the Court Administrator's Office. They have sanctioned this theft for years. The Judges are tainted, as well, for they know their staff only puts in part time hours. This is a criminal action that needs to be investigated. Morganelli, no doubt, will pass this hot potato on to the AG's Office. I wonder if this is the tip of the iceberg? Onembo should have known better, since he came from the prison.

Anonymous said...

From Luzerne County Citizen Voice:
this year:

Urban has said the county should eliminate full-time tipstaff jobs. He said judicial tipstaff employees should work part-time and only on days with jury trials.

The annual salary for a tipstaff employee is $39,000 or more. They also are eligible for health benefits.

Each judge usually has a dedicated tipstaff employee. A tipstaff assists a judge, announces court is in session, swears in witnesses and escorts jurors.

"What do they really do, stand in the back and whisper in the judge's ear?" Urban asked Deputy Court Administrator Jack Mulroy back in 2007.

Mulroy responded, "Well, I don't think I would present it in that manner, commissioner. But I do think they have a function in the court system to keep the court system moving properly."

We are not alone.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks for that quote from Citizens Voice, an outstanding local paper. It appears that we are not alone at all.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Sure it's upsetting, but knowing politics and Ron Angle, he knew for a while and was just sitting on the info until he could use it to serve himself."

Until today, I was under the impression that tipstaffs were classified FT, but were only paid for hours worked. That's what most reporters thought, too. That's what Angle thought. I knew about one tipstaff getting paid, and it confused me. In response to the comment a reader posted anonymously, I learned what I've reported tonight.

I think it's wrong to pay people, especially public employeees, for hours they have not worked. It sends the wrong message. I contacted Bill White and Michael Duck, who have both described tipstaffs as PT workers, to set them straight. I also talked to the ET's Sarah Cassi tonight. Then I called Angle and told him. So, no, he was not sitting on this information and waiting to spring it at the proper moment. He did not know it until today.

The reason this information is now more widely known is because of the Court Administrator, James Onembo. He and I do not trust or like each other very much, but he was very honest in answering the questions I asked him today. He never tried to hide anything and pointed out that the way tipsatffs are compensated predates all of us. I think he and the courts will want to change that now that it has been brought to their attention. Although it really has to be changed for the reasons I've already stated, I really believe Onembo, judges and tipstaffs had no intention to pull anything over on anyone. I believe everyone here is acting in good faith on a system that no one has really thought about.

Anonymous said...

"I really believe Onembo, judges and tipstaffs had no intention to pull anything over on anyone. I believe everyone here is acting in good faith on a system that no one has really thought about."

Are you kidding me? Onembo knew all along, yet he was never caught. This is a criminal act, called theft. Onembo knew the consequences, because he saw the same thing happen at his old job at the prison, where people were investigated and fired over the exact same thing. And you believe them?! You are unbelievable! If no one is held accountable for this, then the Courts do have a different standard than the rest of us. They are a protected class. They are immune. If Morganelli or Barron does not go after these people, who stole from the taxpayers of this County, then we are all victims of theft.

Anonymous said...

The judges had to have known as well. All are guilty crooks. Honorable tipstaffs will return the money they've stolen.

Anonymous said...

What this really shows is how many other employees might be getting paid for hours not worked!!!
Thank you for uncovering this illegal action on the part of
some. And the poor guy who gets up at 5:30 to work 8 to 9 hours
is docked if he is 5 minutes late.
What does John Stoffa say about this? Isn't he ultimately responsible for all county workers?
Bernie, Please keep us informed.

Anonymous said...

it's unbelieveable not a single soul knew anything about this till now ? incredulous ......

Anonymous said...

it's unbelieveable not a single soul knew anything about this.... what is hr' s function ? how can this of happened and nobody knew ? why would onembo allow this doesn't he himself have to work 40 hours a week ? who else gets paid for 40 hours a week what about tom harp ? john conklin ? do all these people work 40 hrs. a week ? look at them all not just a few.

Anonymous said...

Tipstaffs are not responsible to Stoffa. They report to Onembo, but the overall person responsible is Judge McFadden, the president judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County. Those with administrative responsibilities for the Court all knew that the tipstaffs received full time pay and benefits for part time work, despite what the law mandates. The Courts turned a blind eye, because the tipstaffs are one of their own. Stoffa, who is the responsible for the executive branch of government is prohibited from interfering with the judiciary. Any blame for violating the law, lays squarely on McFadden and Onembo. Yet, BO makes light of this theft, excusing the judicial administrative staff by saying "lets be respectful" and "they try hard". Bullshit! It's called theft, BO. And it's a crime. Plain and simple. They knew about it. They were complacent about it. They excused it. They skirted around it, by saying, then change the system. How convenient! Anyone else would be behind bars. In fact, I don't trust anyone here in the County to investigate this theft. The Attorney General should step in to investigate. Now.

Bernie O'Hare said...

While I understand the anger, especially since this involves public employees, I do not consider this "theft". Nobody hid anything. It's not like ghost employees. Now I know Ron is hot about it, but I just don't see any criminal intent. Perhaps it should be investigated.

I am not interested in doing anything than casting light on an antiquated office and how those who work in it are paid. What botheras me more is that these part time workers are classified full time so they can get benefits. That's the real harm here, and it's to the county budget.

Anonymous said...

"He did not know it until today."

So Angle, in all of his time on council and self-proclaimed watchdog, has done nothing to improve efficiency in the operations of the courts. Ron blows a lot of smoke about efficiency and saving money, but he has never proactively done anything about this.

Now that Ron is president of council, he can't grand-stand. he actually has to work. You did a service in bringing this to light. You also did a service in pointing out Ron's neglegence as an elected official.

Anonymous said...

§ 3922. Theft by deception.

a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of theft if he intentionally obtains or withholds property of another by deception. A person deceives if he intentionally:

(1) creates or reinforces a false impression, including false impressions as to law, value, intention or other state of mind; but deception as to a person's intention to perform a promise shall not be inferred from the fact alone that he did not subsequently perform the promise;

(2) prevents another from acquiring information which would affect his judgment of a transaction; or

(3) fails to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced, or which the deceiver knows to be influencing another to whom he stands in a fiduciary or confidential relationship.

(b) Exception.--The term "deceive" does not, however, include falsity as to matters having no pecuniary significance, or puffing by statements unlikely to deceive ordinary persons in the group addressed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So Angle, in all of his time on council and self-proclaimed watchdog, has done nothing to improve efficiency in the operations of the courts"

It's amazing that you would use this discovery as an excuse to attack the few people who are actually watching things as best they can. True, Angle did not find out until yesterday. That's when I found out. I've been focused on this issue for years and never knew myself. So criticize me, too.

Anonymous said...

Full time pay and benefits for part time work - seems to me that is exactly what AG Corbett is prosecuting half of the staff in Harrisburg about. Maybe he'd like to come to NC and look around!

Anonymous said...

I find it reprehensible that due to the fact that Ron Angle has been handed his toys and told he can only keep one that all these others need to endure this character assassination. All of a sudden tipstaff are getting paid for more then the actual hours worked, and we have too many judges sitting on the bench. Where was Mr Angle when all these positions had to be approved by County council? He was there and obviously voted. And don't even get me started on what you people are doing to Gracedale! It is a crime and it is time to get rid of Angle. His comments regarding other county employees were completely disrespectful and shows me this mans TRUE character.

Anonymous said...

Relax. When the lights dim, he'll reverse himself or simply lose interest as he moves on to the next publicity stunt.

Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath waiting for the Controller to look into this. He is on a short leash by the Democratic party machine. As a Long surrogate, he will continue to talk about guns that are already locked up.


Anonymous said...


What would be even worse, and I don't know if you can find this out, but did any tipstaff get a pension? If they did, isn't that also illegal?

Anonymous said...

There are many county employees that are a waste of tax payers' money and are holding those positions because they are someone's pet.