About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Northampton County's Right Not To Know Law

On October 13, I told you that an arbitrator has upheld a grievance on behalf of AFSCME Local 1435 over healthcare reductions unilaterally imposed by Northampton County Exec John Brown last year. This impacts about 650 Gracedale employees. By Brown's own admission, this could end up costing the County $1 million.

On the day I was made aware of this ruling, I also filed a Right-to-Know request, seeking a copy of the order or ruling. It was a perfunctory request for information to which the public is clearly entitled, as a matter of law. I did not seek a copy of the underlying opinion, just the order itself.

I was shocked when County Right-to-Know Officer, Daniel O'Donnell, invoked a 30 day extension. I thought he was a lawyer, not a lackey. Yet he has allowed himself to be used to impair the public's right to know concerning a matter of vital importance to both employees and taxpayers. The deliberate foot-dragging concerning this information betrays a lack of transparency, which remains a hallmark of the John Brown administration.

Yesterday, just before the deadline, O'Donnell sent me an unsigned and undated "Award and Remedy." I have no way of knowing what union entity is involved or who the arbitrator is or whether this even involves Northampton County. It is a simple two paragraphs:
"The grievance is sustained. As a remedy, the County is directed to provide employees in 2015 with the same health insurance plan they received in 2014 and to make whole any employees who incurred losses under the new health insurance plan.

"The Arbitrator shall retain jurisdiction of the case for the sole purpose of resolving any disputes over the implementation of the remedy."
I've advised O'Donnell that "I need a signed copy of the Order or an affidavit from someone who can attest to its legitimacy or I will appeal this bad faith response." If the only way the County can prove it is legitimate is by attaching the Opinion it should do so. It can redact what it wants to keep from the public, which is apparently everything.

No comments: