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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nazareth Refuses To Pay Benefits To Retired Road Crew Worker

Roger Herman
Roger Herman loves his job on Lower Nazareth's road crew. What he really likes about it is that the people he works for, from Manager Timm Tenges to Supervisors to residents, let him know he is appreciated.  And why not? Outside of public safety, road maintenance is the most important function in most townships, boroughs and cities. As most elected officials will themselves tell you, the road crews and first responders who keep our streets clean and safe are the real face of local government. They turn the wheels of government from their police cruisers and plows. When a little boy or girl wanders off, chances are that one of them will notice before anything unfortunate happens.

Things are different in the Nazareth Circus, also known as  Borough Council. A small and insular group of autocrats think that they, and not the people on the front lines, make things happen. They refused to do anything about Mayor Carl Srtye, who actually admitted to skimming money from a volunteer fire company. They rallied around him until the District Attorney insisted that he resign if he wanted ARD, a special program for first offenders.

These Council members have also interfered in police operations. One of them, Larry Stoudt, was actually charged for interfering with a state investigation into illegal gambling at the local social clubs. He illegally pressured the Chief to run the license plate of someone he suspected was an undercover agent

They look down their noses at the road crew, too, disparaging them as "the Mexicans."

Herman is one of those Mexicans. He used to work on Nazareth's road crew. He was hired there in October 1994. He was unhappy at how he and his fellow workers were treated. He belonged to a union, but the steward was Larry Stoudt's nephew, Robert. .

After 21 years, Herman decided it was time to go somewhere else. He gave notice that he was retiring in June 2015. In addition to rolling over his pension, he asked the Borough to reimburse him for his clothing allowance, accumulated sick pay and longevity. This request was pursuant to a written employment contract with the borough, under which he was contractually entitled to these benefits.

Herman received a response from Solicitor Al Pierce on July 10, denying his request.
"Nazareth Borough Council has accepted your resignation, effective 6/26/15. Nazareth Borough Council has determined that your termination did not constitute retirement and that you are therefore not eligible for a half a year's clothing allowance, longevity pay for 2015 and sick day pay. Council has authorized the payment of wages as provided by the final payroll for your period of employment."
I was unaware that Nazareth Borough Council had the authority to ignore its own employment contract. I decided to look at the minutes of their July 6, 2015 meeting to see whether Herman's resignation was accepted, as Pierce claims. I also looked to see if the Borough Council rejected his claim for benefits, as Pierce claimed.

As I suspected, the minutes make no such mention. That means one of two things. Either Borough Council made these decisions behind closed doors in violation of the state Sunshine Act, or Pierce is talking out of his ass.

Now Borough Council is allowed to discuss personnel matters in the back room, but all decisions must be made publicly. In Nazareth, the state Sunshine Act is regarded more as a recommendation than as law. That's what you'd expect from an outfit that thinks it can unilaterally disregard an employment contract, especially when it involves one of the "Mexicans."

Herman ended up suing.

"You can only take so much," he told me, and hired Connie Nelson, a prominent Easton lawyer and former assistant District Attorney.  His is the seventh lawsuit filed by an employee against Nazareth since 2013. Unlike the other lawsuits, which involve the deprivation of civil rights, Herman just wanted his benefits. He went to small claims court, and got a judgment against Nazareth for $10,976.88 on 2/4/16, following a hearing before Magisterial District Judge Robert Hawke.

At that hearing, Al Pierce the Solicitor suddenly became a witness. His associate, Scott Steier, tried the case. That way they could charge Nazareth double for their time.

Instead of just paying Herman, Nazareth appealed, and Herman had to file a complaint in county court.

Though Connie Nelson attached a copy of the contract and his own demand to her complaint, Pierce and Steier tried to get it bounced

As you probably guessed, they got bounced instead. A perplexed Judge Emil Giordano overruled their preliminary objections, noting that Herman has stated "a prima facia breach of contract claim."    

But Pierce and Steier have been able to pad their bill a little more, even though they must know they have a loser.    

"I want the taxpayers to know that they're just wasting money," Herman told me. 'The only ones making out here are the lawyers."

Chief Thomas Trachta and Officer Stephen Scheig have three active suits against Nazareth. A complaint filed by probationary officer Adam Shimer was dismissed, but he managed to get a job as a full-time police officer in Palmerton. Fred Lahovski and Connie McGinnis settled their lawsuits. Lahovski was paid $440,000, which is the largest sum I've seen awarded to police officer for a civil rights claim in the Lehigh Valley.

Herman just wants Nazareth to keep its word and pay him the $10,000 he is due.


Anonymous said...

Some how it is hard to accept your biased reporting about Nazareth. This poor man probably does not know who you are and he entrusts you to help him? Your hatred of the town is legendary. The community leaders don't fear you so you are out to get them.

The real Lawyers seem to have a grasp on this as you don't. Many doubt that taxpayer money should be spent because you are upset with Nazareth.

If this is really a case of merit it will be handled. Otherwise the elected officials have a duty to the taxpayers to be sure all the facts are known and not just your well know"convenient" facts you are famous for.

We will see if this has any merit or if as usual there is more to the story.

Anonymous said...

Seems this person should be paid his accrued benefits based on the Contract. On a side note, in the modern America, some employers contribute to 401Ks at the end of the year on Dec 31. As a result, if you are terminated or leave before that date, you forfeit the acrrued Company match for that year. Our match use to be dollar for dollar upto 8% of salary. Then it was 50 cents on the dollar. Now they match 50 cents on the dollar for 6%. That is a remarkable difference compared to a 20 year and out retirements. Welcome to the new America folks. I have seen folks with 33 years of gainful service being laid off with 2 weeks severence and 6mos of paid medical. That is considered at will employment. I imagine it will get worse under the new administration.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said in the above comment: If this is really a case of merit it will be handled. Otherwise the elected officials have a duty to the taxpayers to be sure all the facts are known and not just your well know"convenient" facts you are famous for.

Seems like the courts already decided that this is a case of merit, in favor of Herman. Doesn't Pierce's office draw up the contracts for the Boro? It's job security. They make bad contracts, they charge the Boro to go to court to fight the bad contracts, then they appeal over and over and over again, and we taxpayers have to pay the bill!!

As for calling your workers Mexicans, that's just down right degrading. I think the Boro should be grateful that there wasn't a lawsuit brought against them for harassment and discrimination. It's times like this that I'm embarrassed to say I'm from Nazareth.

Anonymous said...

Typical Nazareth Borough Council bull----. These arrogant, useless, pretenders never worry about doing the right thing. All they do is call "Alfie" [Pierce] up and tell him to take care of it. He then pads the billable hours up and rakes in the rewards for these losing cases. Council hides behind the infamous "were protecting the public's money" and they pay out the funds to protect this farce. It's a vicious circle that will eventually cost the citizens more money if they did the right thing. They'll pay the damages, the court costs and of course the HUGE legal fees "Alfie" will charge them. At election time, these incompetents got to go: FIRE EVERYONE OF THEM!

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that if you accrued that much sick time, you rarely called in sick. Sounds like a dedicated worker that is just trying to get what he worked for all of those years.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Connie, specifically, is representing him must have their panties in a real bunch.

Anonymous said...

He should sue them again for calling them Mexicans or anything else for that matter. Its harassment. But then again this is a "town council of douchebags", a mayor who is an ADMITTED thief had to resign in disgrace and "cupcake trachta" the police chief. Of course the latest loser is Miller, the stupid... a title of being a known liar in law enforcement is not to good. The DA's Office cringes when he walks in as the stench of dog pop emits..... Randy "the Liar" Miller... no creditability- the commish of the cess pool!


JoAnn Kennedy said...

he's correct, insurance is a very expensive expenditure. Not designed for US -- but for the corporate greed raiders -- Insurance companies charge high premiums, for little return. In fact, claims are usually dismissed w/o explanation or so whittled down - it does not help the cost of the expense the insurance was purchased for initially.

Anonymous said...

Those of us who own homes and p[ay taxes love Nazareth it is a great town. I guess the freeloading pot smokers and the derelicts hate the fact they are losers. We are glad that our town's police and government do their jobs and could care less about the freeloading moaners who throw their cigarette butts in the street and collect their welfare.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Except you don't live in Nazareth, nor do you own a home.

Brian Ferencin said...

Just wondering if Nazareth gave this employee his retirement & half years pay he had saved up. I think it stinks that he worked & saved for it over 20+ years in the public works dept & to get a hard time like this stinks. I hope he get's his stuff he earned.

Anonymous said...

To the first commenter...sounds like you are a councilman and you have a lot of nerve using the term "Poor Man" when referring to Mr Herman. As far as there being more to the story, of course there is, isn't there always?! Maybe council needs to dig through the big book of Borough ordinances and see where it defines RETIREMENT. Oh yeah, that's right, it only defines it as it pertains to PENSION payments. This case is NOTHING about pension. Now, maybe council needs to look over the contract with the Public Works Dept. In the paragraph that pertains to sick day payments, does it define Retirement there? NO. As the matter of fact, nowhere in the Contract does it define Retirement. The only little blip about it is in the PENSION section, and even then it only mentions the Borough ordinance by Section and Number, but again, this case has nothing to do with Pension. Any good Solicitor would have told you that you have a very weak case, which was easily proven at the first hearing when the Judge Hawke found in favor of Mr. Herman.

Anonymous said...

Did this man quit his job or did he retire? I'm sure a fine line is between the two.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That kind of goofy argument would only hold up in the people's Republic of Nazareth. In a retirement, a person quits his job but has fulfilled the requirement to be eligible for benefits,and in the employment contract,that is determined by his years of service and his accumulation of sick time.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Brian, The Borough did roll over his pension for him. That is all.

Anonymous said...

Which Union represents these workers?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe it is called Nazareth Employees' Union. I have no idea whether it is part of AFSCME, SEIU or something else.

p said...

Al Pierce,ESQ is no 'piker' . There must be an issue or he would not have done this deal contrary to this employee . We can bet Mr.Pierce is correct in his run down of events under the contract. Mr Pierce is a straight arrow-a person of complete integrity,and all else falls behind in some uncontrolled issue . I side with the union man and wish him well , but contracts are contracts .

Brian Ferencin said...

Thanks Bernie for the reply. At least he got his retirement I still think he's entitled to the other stuff after all he worked for it & saved up in the course of 20+ years working Public Works for Nazareth... Too bad the Race Track is defunct now that place drew in a lot of money in the summer months for Nazareth in it's hay-day's.
I remember going to many Indy Car races there as a kid with my dad. You all have a great day

Anonymous said...

Al Pierce is an ASSHOLE! His interpretation of the law it's a mockery! He has cost this borough Millions in law suits and other legal fees. His "straight arrow" comes in the form of a slithering snake thats hiding in the grass.

Anonymous said...

He officially quit... then took it back and said he was retiring... There is a difference between the two. There were also big differences in his job performances through his years at Nazareth. Was suprised they kept him this long. I believe Bernie called the workers "Mexicans" not the members of council. No law suit there. The amount of lawsuits in this borough is just embarrassing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:10, when someone quit and has fulfilled the requisite conditions, that's called retirement. I did not disparage the road crew but accurately report that Maurer and other council members call them the Mexicans. Love how you anonymously try to slur this guy after you anonymously slur me. There are so many lawsuits in Nazareth bc of people like you. And guess what? It's going to get worse until you are all gone, from Lance Colon to John Sameus.

Anonymous said...

He sent a letter of retirement at the suggestion of Al Pierce in a meeting he had in Al's office on June 24th, 2015 and also the opinion of the National Labor Relations Board. As to the comment regarding job performance, with bosses that refer to you as a Mexican, and avoid negotiating the 4+ year expired contract, I'm pretty certain that morale has been at a low point in the public works department for quite some time now.

I suggest Council read the transcripts from the Feb 4th hearing with Judge Hawke and then decide if they should continue to appeal the case. The tax payers have probably already spent more on court and attorney fees for this case than if they would have paid the benefits owed in the first place.