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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, May 08, 2015

Jerry Seyfried Gives a Clinic on Good Government

Jerry Seyfried has been a member of Northampton County Council. He has been its Executive. He has even worked as a cabinet officer. He was one of the first Council members named after Home Rule. He was instrumental in drafting the Administrative Code and Career Service Regulation. Simply put, he knows more about Northampton County government and its home rule form of government than anyone. He was at last night's Council meeting, and at their invitation, to discuss the current dispute between Executive John Brown and Council over the Executive's authority to ignore the Career Service Regulations and award pay hikes to his favorites.

He should have stayed away. Earlier that day, Jerry received word that his son was in the hospital. But he remained, and gave nothing less than a clinic in good government, explaining why the merit personnel system exists and how it is being perverted. .

The issue of pay raises for exempt and non-exempt employees goes back many years. Your solicitor has adequately addressed that issue in his legal opinion to you, and although my opinion might not mean much to you, I agree 100% with his findings.

At present there seems to be a hang-up about pay raises and the Policies and Procedures Manual. I will give you a little history on this subject, but first I will quote The Home Rule Charter Commission on their establishment of a “Merit Personnel System” and what they hoped to accomplish.

Through the Charter and its mandates, The Administrative Code and its mandates, and the Career Service Regulations, they hoped to and I quote “have a personnel code established for county employees which would base all appointments on merit. The system would assure uniform hiring and firing procedures and would also guarantee the retention of experienced county workers.” “The merit personnel system established in the Charter provides for recruiting and employing county government employees on the basis of qualification." There are provisions for:
1.) The qualification of positions
2.) A pay plan
3.) Policies and procedures regarding impartial standards for employment
4.) Removal of employees
5.) Hours of work
6.) In service training programs; and
7.) Handling employee’s grievances.

There are safeguards against all forms of discrimination and political patronage.

What has happened is too often the Career Service Regulations, the Charter and the Administrative Code is ignored in this area. When not ignored they are outright perverted. For example, a test was administered for the Register of Wills position asking questions that had absolutely nothing to do with that job. Another example, a test for a deputy in the Civil Division was given requiring knowledge of EXCEL, a program never used by the people in that office. On the other hand, the merit personnel system worked the way it intended when a young lady came to Gracedale and started working as a Nurse's Aid. She progressed up the ladder using the tools provided to her in the Career Service Regulations and went on to become the Director of Nursing at the County Facility. The Asst. DON also progressed through the ranks after starting as a Nurses Aid. This is a shining example of how a good merit personnel system should function.

Now for the problem you are presently having with existing rules here is some background information.

In 2008 The Administration and Council were at lager heads over employee issues. The Council felt the Administration (through the personnel office) were altering the Career Service Regulations by improperly making overwhelming changes to the Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual, and then enforcing those regulations thus usurping the powers and authority of the Council.

***Council passed an ordinance #488 on October 2, 2008, which stated their displeasure with the process, and laid out a whole new set of rules for the administration to follow before implementing the policies and procedures.

***The Administration disagreed with the Ordinance and took the issue to court.

***On 4 November 2008 the Courts handed down this Ruling. “The Plaintiff shall take no action contrary to ordinance 488-2008. The defendant shall take no action under Ordinance 488-2008 pending further order of court”.

***In the middle of 2009, I was appointed to serve out an unexpired term of a councilperson which had moved from the area. Because of my background on Personnel issues I was asked to take a look at the Personnel Rules and report back to Council on my findings. After considerable time I reported my findings. I found what I believed to be at least thirty violations of the Home Rule Charter, Administrative code, and /or the Career Service Regulations, and depending on who is interpreting the Policies and procedures, those numbers could have been even higher.

I spoke with the Administration’s Solicitor and pointed out these deficiencies.

He agreed we should meet and discuss these issues.

***In Executive session of Council, I reported my findings and the fact that the Administrations Solicitor was willing to meet and discuss what I viewed as discrepancies. Council instructed me to proceed, and I immediately set up a meeting with the County Executive, County Solicitor, Council Solicitor and myself.

*** At that meeting I identified the Policies and Rules that members of Council and I felt were violations. We then agreed that the lawsuit would be dropped and a written formal agreement between the Administration and Council be given to the Judge to resolve this issue.

***Executive session of Council was held and it was unanimous to proceed with the settlement.

***On 26 October, 2009 The Court gave their “Declaratory Judgment Action.” The first paragraph of the settlement is very important. It reads “Plaintiff agrees to submit the existing Personnel Policies and Procedure Manual to the Northampton County Personnel Commission for its review and recommendation pursuant to the provisions of Ordinance 488-2008, as more fully set forth in Exhibit A”.


***The Personnel Commission met and agreed to look at the Career Service Regulations and took it even a step further. They combined Home Rule Charter Mandates, Administrative Code Mandates, and existing State and Federal Law Mandates and “Rewrote the Career Service Regulations” bringing them into the twenty first Century.

My term on Council ended in 2009, however I agreed to be Council’s Representative (as a volunteer) to the Personnel Commission and I served with the commission and representatives of the administration until the Regulations were completed. The rewriting of the Regulations took approximately one and a half years to complete.

***On February 17th 2011 The Personnel Commission presented to Council the newly written Career Service Regulations and they were adopted by County Council.

I had explained to the Commission about the law suits, the court settlement and the mandates. They understood fully. It must be noted that “no where” does it state that the Personnel Commission is to review Personal Policies and Procedures, however, because of the law suit and the court agreement, they said they would take on the task and review the policies.

Remember, the policies and procedures manual is not adopted by County Council and are rules written by the administration putting forth the everyday operation of the government. In the past they have over stepped their bounds and that resulted in a law suit. These personnel policies and procedures can be very damaging to the County if they are violations and simply ignored. Let me give you an example.

DA raises for his employee. In this case the Judge cited the Personnel policies and procedure manual which was contradictory to the Charter.

I’ll explain further if you want me too.

You must clear up these Personnel Policies and Procedures and put credibility back in the Merit Personnel System.

County Council controls salaries. County Council controls the number of positions in both the career Service and the exempt service. County council has the authority by Charter mandate to dictate certain policies and procedures to the administration and the merit personnel system is only one of those.

I’d be glad to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for allowing me this input.

How did Council respond to this primer? I'll tell you below.


Anonymous said...

I started my career with Norco under jerry as county exec. He is a man with moral character, unlike the man that holds that office now. The days of leaders having this are gone.

Anonymous said...

I got excited, but then realized you wrote Seyfried and not Seinfeld how I read it.

Brown is a mess, betcha they re-elect him in a couple of years

Anonymous said...

Jerry's a great guy. I worked with him too.

Anonymous said...

His son is in the hospital, but the ole dinosaur who cant hang it up stays at the council meeting?

I get that he knows alot, but the voters spoke loud and clear. We thank Jerry for his service, but its time to retire and do retirement things.

Anonymous said...

And a saint of Big Government is heard from. Please go away, Jerry. We're still paying for your lack of fiscal responsibility. Our grandkids will be also.

Anonymous said...

@12:22 AM

"The days of leaders having this are gone."

Should read:

The days of leaders are gone.

Anonymous said...

it was refreshing to hear from someone who knows what he's talking about ... jerry was talking about HONEST government brown is corrupt plain and simple ...jerry cares about the county always has he is someone who has earned our trust ..Thank you jerry for coming last night !

Anonymous said...

Brownstain supporters doing what they do best! Seyfried was a great executive and smart enough to understand fiscal responsibility and NOT hand out unauthorized free money to his cronies! Get it right BROWNSTAIN and Mentors!

Anonymous said...


Bernie O'Hare said...

Somebody does not want you reading what Jerry said.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I get that he knows alot, but the voters spoke loud and clear."The persons who beat Jerry invited him. It's called governing, something that eludes people like you.

Anonymous said...

it was very refreshing to hear jerry speak last night and greatly appreciated by me ... finally the voice of knowledge and reason ... brown could learn a lot from him , but his ego is to inflated to bother

Anonymous said...

Did shoo-in County Executive Callahan have any comment? Don't count your chickens before they hatch. Especially when they're Brown eggs.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bern, LONG time listener first time caller.. I had to chime in on something else that has come to light.. Your boy Julian Stolz. 1 do you know him and his "love of his life, then underage when they met gf" broke up? I'd love to hear her story if you know what i mean :)

But more importantly young stolz was recently arrested for a DUI.. You've covered such things before on other people, why not on your buddy who you've long defended?!?!


Anonymous said...

Seyfried was a great executive

Yeah right. Bernie never mentions that he was voted out of office. Lost to an unknown Republican write in named back when Dems dominated county politics.

Matt M. said...

Tribal knowledge is an invaluable thing, especially when shared by a cooler, wiser person. Thank you for the time and insight, Mr. Seyfried.

Anonymous said...

Voter turnout killed Seyfried's bid for re-election. Now the Republicans have figured it out and use that information wisely. Seyfried led from the front. Did you know he was the first County Executive That didn't raise taxes. I worked for Jerry because of his honesty and integrity. Good man

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:58, First, you are off topic. Second, I doube this is yoyur first ever comment. Third, the DUI will be relevant if and when Julian seeks public office. I don't ordinarily report on DUIs of everyone. Ant additional comments along this line will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

It's rich when a lifetime public trough slopper who was thrown out by voters returns to bles us all with his pearls of governmental wisdom. Luckily, voters are wise to him. Thanks, Gerry. But, no thanks.

Anonymous said...

what was bo doing under the table as his mancrush spoke?

Bernie O'Hare said...

You don't know Jerry or his family very well, do you? They are among the most brilliant and hard-working peoplke I know. Jerry grew up in poverty along with many others. He knows what it is like to have nothing. But he and others like Msrk Iampetro and Joe Long worked their ways out. Jerry, who served his country honorably in the Navy, got a job at the Bethlerhem Steel.

Before he was ever involved in politics, he was involved in all kinds of service organizations striving to make the community a better place.

When he was finally tapped for Council, he took his new role very seriously. He probably knows the HRC by heart. He sat and listened to people like Jim Hemstreet, Rich Grucela and Judge Moran, and he learned. Thereer is no one - lawyer, judge or nonlawyer - with his command of county law.

We are lucky to have him and that he still takes an interest. You, who slink here anonymously, are the opposite of public servants.

Anonymous said...

Jerry is the smartest guy in the room. Just ask him.

Anonymous said...

1:41 doesn't know Jerry like we know him. We worked with Jerry at the Bethlehem Steel and watched him work his way up the chain. He started as a labor and rose to the position of Machinist A Class. While he worked at the steel he helped his friends. He built his own home. An amazing feat in itself. He educated two children and both are college Grads with successful careers. How about you loser. Tell us about your family. Don't pay attention to these losers Jerry. I'm proud to be your friend and your neighbor.
sign me F& L

Bernie O'Hare said...

Even that is only a small part of his story. Jerry and his wife never bought anything new. Their first priority was their children's education, and they bought used furniture and drive used cars to save for their kids. It is a real honor for me to be in the same room with him, let alone a friend. He is trying to help Council and the Exec out of a mess, not to blow his own horn, but bc he loves the County. The people who beat Jerry respect him. Mat Benol reported that he sat down with Jerry for three hours on Monday night. Glenn Geissinger invited Jerry to address Council. And Jerry came up with a solution. Fortunately, trolls like 1:41 are disregarded by just about everyone.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Jerry is the smartest guy in the room. Just ask him."

Actually, I am. Ask me. You must be the most jealous person in the room.

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

Thanks Mr. Seyfried for all your years giving back. You have those who get into gov't as genuine public servants, and you have those that get into for ulterior motives. Thanks for your civic mindedness, unlike some of the anon attacks on here.

Thanks also to Council for serving as a check. Over the years Council hasn't always seemed to exercise much real authority compared to the office of the Exec. Good to see some checks and balances in action. I think what is important to take away from Mr. Seyfried's comments is a reminder that the law/structure of government should be more important than the individual men/women who temporarily occupy various offices. Human nature is what it is, and needs to be constrained. Our Founding Fathers recognized that; it is still true, and will always be true.

I'll only comment on one of these posts, but the group of them were good Bernie.

I often wonder what become of these "corporations and organizations ... some international" that Brown's campaign fliers touted. Boy, the lever pullers were taken by this one.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ovem, you hit it right on the head with Jerry. He thinks tge rule of law always trumps the person who wields the power. He was willing to tell Stoffa that the manual adopted was wrong, and was willing to say the same thing to Brown. To their credit, everyone listened.

Anonymous said...

jerry is as good as they come , he is a man who never forgot where he came from and certainly believes in fairness for all ,he is a man of integrity and has lived a life dedicated to helping his fellow man . john brown should take a page from his play book and turn himself around , I can't remember a time I was more disgusted with the executive representing the people of this county.

Anonymous said...

Oh My God. Nothing Jerry did at Council was for his own political gain. He did that for us, the employees and the taxpayer. Jerry has already stated that he will never again run for political office and remembers with fond memories all his wins and set backs during his years in public office. I've heard him say many times, "you don't go through life taking, You are obligated to give something back". He has more than done that. Did you ever attend anyone of his events, banquets he runs for charities, etc. He has raised millions for kids. And guess what, He is one of us. A blue collar worker who made good and hasn't forgotten his roots. Thanks Jerry.

Anonymous said...

I have seen the system breakdown time and time again. Tests are given that have nothing to do with positions and then the job goes to someone less qualified ie: A recent captain postion at the Jail was given to somone not because of his qualifications but because he was a brown noser if you will. 9 top candidates were passed over some with 20 plus years of experience. This person had a mere 5 years of correctional experience. This will never change at the county. Favoritism runs rampant there.

Anonymous said...

I know of a candidate for a county job that aced the test and was not hired. Imagine that?

Anonymous said...

The spoils of war go to the victor. Brown sits on the throne as KING.. and only another election cycle can remove him from power. He will leave no legacy to speak of..only a trail of destruction. Scorched earth..if you will.

Anonymous said...

We are getting screwed every day with Brown refusing to obey the rules and stacking the deck against us. Isn't there some way to protect us against these brazen and blatant violations? We need help. Promotions and wage increases are given to people who don't deserve them and should have been given to someone with higher test scores.They find ways around the Career service regulations to do their evil things. No wonder morale is low.