Thursday, April 02, 2015
McClure: Some Things Are Sacred in County Gov't
Elections are administered by the Northampton County Elections Commission. "It is one of the fundamental things we do," noted McClure. "I always think it is very risky to be penny wise and pound foolish."
McClure was speaking about Brown's plan to have maintenance employees move voting machines to 149 different different precincts. This would save about $40,000 per year, which is what it costs to have Frick Transfer, a bonded moving company, make these deliveries.
Ken Kraft, a former Chair of the Elections Commission, noted Brown made this decision without consulting that body, which is charged by state law with administering elections. Brown then claimed that the idea actually originated with Voting Registrar Dee Rumsey herself.
Rumsey was not present at this meeting to confirm or deny Brown's charge.
Kraft complained that this was tried once before and "was a disaster." He added this comes at a time when the County already is short-staffed, noting the number of vacant jobs
Mr. Kraft, I don't believe the comment that they're already short-staffed is appropriate," huffed Brown.
"Well, I've been hearing that from all the departments that we're short-staffed, and people are overworked and trying to get the job done, and that we have lines in places, and now we're going to take people out to deliver election machines" responded Kraft."It just doesn't make sense to me."
"Thank you for your opinion," snarked Brown.
The Elections Commission, made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, will weigh in with their own opinion at noon today.
At-Risk Children and Seniors
Noting the number of vacancies in Children and Youth (CYF), McClure flatly observed that it puts "children are at risk." He also pointed to the large number of vacancies at Area Agency on Aging, which is down 5.25 case managers.
"That is unbelievable to me," declared McClure. "This is not good government. I understand that there are in management text books the concept that there should be no sacred cows. But our vulnerable children and our elderly are sacred. They need to be protected. These positions need to be filled and they need to be filled now."
"Thank you, I agree with you; do you have a question?" snapped Brown.
"Are you going to fill them?" asked McClure.
There were several answers, depending on who was asking the questions.
We Are Not Dawdling
"Those positions, when they come to my desk, get signed immediately," Brown assured McClure. "We're not holding them out." But Brown and Human Services Director Allison Frantz explained that the hiring process for these positions, most of which are civil service, can take up to 150 days. Frantz assured McClure that division heads are working "very hard"to fill vacancies. "[I]t absolutely does affect our ability to provide services to the community, and it affects the morale with the other workers."
"We are not dawdling," she insisted. She acknowledged, in response to questions from Ken Kraft, that starting salaries might be too low.
Frantz was unable to state how many people are in the pipeline to fill these vacancies. "This has to be a top priority,"complained McClure, adding that existing staff can only visit so many homes in a day. Frantz responded that her staff meets state regulations regarding response times.
We Evaluate each Vacancy
After assuring McClure that she's doing everything she can, Frantz gave what seems to be different answers to suggestions from Mat Benol, the former Chair of the Lehigh Valley Tea Party. He proposed an analysis "to see how many positions need to be filled." Noting the increased use of technology, he suggested that employees could be shuffled from one department to another.
"Absolutely," answered Frantz. "Whenever a position is open, we evaluate to determine what we can do better, differently," she told Benol. That is more in line with what Brown told an audience just one week earlier, during his State of the County address.
Does Anybody have Something That's Actually New?
Glenn Geissinger, who was chairing the meeting for an absent Peg Ferraro, tried to sum things up. He stated there may be flaws in the hiring system and that starting salaries might be too low.
"Now does anybody have anything that's actually new?" he pleaded,
A perplexed McClure observed that the Human Services Director had just acknowledged she is unaware how many people are in the pipeline to fill vacancies at Children and Youth and Area Agency on Aging.
"You don't see that as a problem," he asked.
"I would prefer that you not put words in my mouth, Mr. McClure," responded Geissinger, who earlier that night had led everyone in prayer.
I sat on my ass.