Thursday, October 25, 2018

NorCo Prothy, Clerk of Criminal Courts, Claim Staff Is Underpaid.

NorCo's Liberty Bell
At yesterday's budget hearing, Northampton County Council heard from the row officers. These include the Prothonotary (a fancy name for the person who manages the office in which civil cases are filed), Clerk of Criminal Courts, Clerk of Orphans Court/Register of Wills and the Archivist.

Council member John Cusick has been making a point of asking each department head (1) if more people are needed and (2) whether compensation is adequate.

Gina Gibbs, the combination Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans Court, told Council there is no problem in her office, which has had the same people for the past six years. "They love me, I love them," she said. The managers of both Civil and Criminal Divisions,however, said their staff is underpaid.

"Our office is very busy," noted Prothonotary Holly Ruggerio. Her office is ground zero for all civil matters, from mortgage foreclosures to protection from abuse act petitions. She said her staff must familiarize themselves with both state and county rules of civil procedure, and that their work is "complicated" and "fast-paced." Though she failed to mention it, her office also handles numerous passport applications. Yet the salary paid to Civil Division employees is lower than what is paid to clerks in other, less stressful, offices. As a result, she is plagued by "constant turnover." Though most of the employees stay with the county, she is constantly forced to train new people.

Cusick called the Civil Division a "core function of county government. It is vital that we be adequately staffed there."

Another core function of county government is the Criminal Division. That's ground zero for all criminal filings, from bad checks to murder. Leigh Ann Fisher is the Clerk. Though she said she's been able to retain staff, they are underpaid. "We should be on the same level as the MDJ (Magisterial District Judge) offices," she argued, adding that her employees spend 75% of their time in court.

Archivist Renee Drago seems content with her staff of five, but said her department is slowly becoming engulfed in paper coming primarily from Gracedale. She noted many departments are failing to scan these records, which would make paper retention unnecessary.

Administrator Charles Dertinger agreed with Drago, informing Council that at the current rate, the archives building will be engulfed in unnecessary paperwork within two years. Departments are being encouraged to scan documents. He noted that the county did have a lease to store Gracedale documents at another building,but it was ended by the previous administration.

In addition to the row offices, Northampton County Council reviewed the budgets for the District Attorney and Public Defender, with little comment. Neither department seeks additional staff or major increases. Council VP Ron Heckman commended Chief Public Defender Nuria DiLuzio and her staff of 18 assistants with providing legal assistance to those without means.

"The DAs get the ink, but the PDs do the work," he bellowed. Of course, he waited until DA John Morganelli was gone before making this ridiculous statement. Not only does Morganelli spend most weekends at the courthouse, but he is the man police call when someone is arrested for murder at 3 am.

It's more accurate to say that both offices work hard.

Council also heard from Corrections Director James Kostura, who wants to add six guards to his staff. He said it's to combat turnover, injured officers and overtime. Though no one questioned him on this point, I sure would.

If he's unable to keep the officers he has now, what on earth makes him think that adding six more will make a difference?

If you wish to stop the mandated overtime and turnover, start paying officers what they are worth, and stop the salary compression.

Sheriff Rich Johnston explained that there's been an increase in overtime this year because deputies have been assigned to 72 hospital visits so far this year, as opposed to 60 last year. 

Coroner Zach Lysek predicts that the number of fatal opiod overdoes this year will be close to the 109 deaths reported last year. He added that Narcan doses cost between $400-$1,000, but the Department of Health purchases them.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Someone didn't' praise Morganelli more than another attorney. Ohoh! He'll learn or get burned on this blog.

Anonymous said...

ALL positions except for the Cabinet and Council Clerk(OVERPAID) are way underpaid. Job study way over due and the pay to match!!!! Let's see if McClure lives up to taking care of the people that take care of the County.

He certainly didn't with the joke of the new healthcare. Who can afford to pay a HIGH deductible for a MEAGER wage.

Anonymous said...

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission just quietly provided major, reportedly up to 20%, raises to all its staff members. Pay raises for regular county employees might just be appropriate.

Bernie O'Hare said...

One of those who voted No to those raises is Lamont McClure. He might have been the only No. he mentioned this in one of his county council reports.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Most of the employees are quite impressed with the new healthcare. It will put $ in their pockets.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Someone didn't' praise Morganelli more than another attorney. Ohoh! He'll learn or get burned on this blog."

What Heckman said is stupid. It was not just Morganelli he bashed, but all the DAs. It was an incredibly dumb thing to say. Both departments work very hard. Morganelli is at the courthouse nearly every weekend. Neither he nor his staff should be demeaned by some part-timer who has a difficult time keeping his foot out of his mouth. Heckman is a great guy, but he talks too much. People who talk too much say stupid things.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"ALL positions except for the Cabinet and Council Clerk(OVERPAID) are way underpaid."

Untrue.Salaries paid to cabinet level positions are commensurate with their responsibilities or are below what they should be paid. I agree Council Clerk is overpaid. Flisser was the county's MVP and deserved every penny he got. The current clerk is being paid as though she is Frank Flisser and she's not. I agree the meager salaries need to be addressed. I believe McClure will do so. Most hourly workers should be getting at least $3 per hour more than they are currently paid. Also, step increases should be automatic. Maybe not every year,but more senior employees should be getting more $ than those just starting out. Supervisors should be paid more than those they supervise.

Anonymous said...

Our expensive government is not expensive enough. You get a raise!

Anonymous said...

The LVPC is full of people unable to hold a real job. When they have nothing to do they conduct stupid surveys like attending a baked bean festival and then counting how many times people fart afterwards .A few years ago they shed some of the dead wood but I guess nothing has changed. That economic development commission is another good example of dead wood getting good jobs thru political connections. McClure should pull Northampton County out of both groups. Maybe then they can get jobs as prostitutes in downtown Allentown.

Anonymous said...

8:44 Most can't afford putting out a large amount upfront in the beginning of the year, with no steps or decent raise. Then have taxes due in April. We barely make enough to survive with two jobs. What is McClure waiting for election year. Too late!

Anonymous said...

Who is getting a $3 pay increase? Maybe those with the top salaries. 2% does not make for $3. Those with 4 years and under will get a step. Now they will make the same as those with over 5 years. The reduction in health care for the high deductible plan will benefit those already making the most money. It's a scam.

Anonymous said...

Employees of the LVPC received well deserved increases. Their salaries were way below market value and were losing talented individuals to the private sector.

Bernie O'Hare said...

7:46, Go up and read my comment again. I said that most hourly employees should be getting paid $3 more per hour than they do now.

Bernie O'Hare said...

7:47, I do not believe McClure objected to most of the raises, but thought Becky was getting too much. From what I've seen, the LVPC does an outstanding job, including Becky.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:44 Most can't afford putting out a large amount upfront in the beginning of the year, with no steps or decent raise. Then have taxes due in April. We barely make enough to survive with two jobs. What is McClure waiting for election year. Too late!

Seriously. I just took on an additional part-time job in addition to the full-time and part-time I already have. I can't wait for my needed raise any longer. Working for the county is ruining my health....literally.

Anonymous said...

Does the new county council care about employees more than those that left?

Anonymous said...

The LVPC is nothing more than a rubber stamp for Lehigh County projects. Northampton County almost always gets the short end of the stick. It is time for NORCO to leave the LVPC and go it alone and fight for their fair share of money for road projects. It is time for the NORCO council to investigate the LVPC. Let's publish their salaries. Let's stop the leader of the LVPC from making it her personal piggy bank.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bernie. I stand corrected and you have always been in the workers corner. I hope Mr McClure wants to do the right thing. Lots of wrongs need to be fixed. Your blog is appreciated.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That’s ok.