Wednesday, December 01, 2021

NorCo Council Poised to Give Top Elections Officials A Two-Step Raise

In the budget proposed for next year by Executive Lamont McClure, all career service employees will be getting a one-step increase in their base salaries. This is about a 4.5% raise. But in a budget amendment crafted by Lori Vargo-Heffner, one additional stop will be awarded to Elections Registrar Amy Cozze and her Chief Deputy, Amy Hess. This amounts to $3,300 for Cozze and $2,700 for Hess in addition to the one-step increase already proposed. After lengthy discussion, the amendment passed by a vote of 8-0 during a budget amendment hearing last night. Council member Peg Ferraro was absent. 

Council member John Cusick advocated the increase because, as he pointed out, the two Amys actually run three elections: one by mail-in ballot; a second by in-person voting at the polls; and a third through early voting at the elections office. He agreed a two-step increase is "extraordinary," but "these two individuals have been extraordinary and we can't afford to lose them." He added that half of the state's elections officials have quit over the many changes made by the state legislature. 

In that vein, I have copies of a torrent of written abuse heaped upon both Amys during last year's Presidential race. In the most recent election, sore loser Steve Lynch actually called them "corrupt" and "liars." 

In sharp contrast to Cusick, Council member Tara Zrinski warned that Council would be setting a "precedent" by actually paying two county workers what they are worth. She noted career service workers at Gracedale and the jail could march in and demand and extra step, too. 

"We are opening the door," she cautioned.

"The door is always open," retorted Council member Ron Heckman.

He said Zrinski, if she is concerned about paying people fairly, should support a pay study. Zrinski has previously resisted this suggestion, but agrees now that she might support one. 

Heckman also dismissed the notion that Council is setting a precedent. "The only precedent in county government is that there are no precedents." He observed that Council is not simply a reactive body, but has the express authority to set salaries.  

Lori Vargo-Heffner wants to pay for this increase by reducing the proposed overtime budget at the jail. Council member Kevin Lott worried that the County could run out of overtime money, but Heckman assured him that overtime budgets are always padded.  

In addition to being the right thing to do for two people who deserve the raise, Council was demonstrating that it is an independent branch of government with this payhike. 

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Elections Office does an outstanding job. Recall what they have been through in the past two years, between the voting machine fiasco and the Dumpster Fire casting aspersions on the integrity of voting. They have exceeded expectations across the board in this time.

Anonymous said...

Not fair to the rest of the HARD WORKING employees! I hope they do go after what they DESERVE TOO! ALL employees have be abused with an overload of work and being underpaid ONLY McCLURE's FAVORITES get raises. Now that he is in again, what does he care.

Anonymous said...

Got a tweet and checked out the video. what the hell is up with Zirinski? How many terms has she served? She sounded as dumb as a doorknob. She doesn't seem to know anything about her job. Seriously. This is one of the people running the county. Her questions were answered over and over but she still wanted to talk and talk and made very little sense. Good for the election staff they deserve a raise for their work. Good for Cusick and Heckman for standing up for them. Too bad McClure couldn't just do this himself. Glad the Council stepped in.

Anonymous said...

It's about time Council steps up tp the plate and does what it is elected to do. Now do what is right for all the employees and mandate that a salary study be done for all employees. Unions negotiate fair wages for their employees belonging to the union, but career service employees are not given any choice. They only safety valve they have to protect them is County Council and they have failed miserably on this issue. Do your job Council. Hire an independent company to complete a pay survey and then have the backbone to implement the results of that study. Remember when John Stoffa did a salary survey and he said that the salaries were so outDATED THAT IT WOULD COST TOO MUCH TO IMPLEMENT.

Anonymous said...

12:14 AM - I am pleased to hear our Northampton County does an outstanding job. However, in others areas of Pennsylvania, particularly Philadelphia, and in several other states, the election process was ‘tainted’ without a doubt. Those matters are still being sorted through. To learn more, read about Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois for starters.

In my mind, the new focus on making voting open to nearly everyone, and with less rigid eligibility standards, is still problematic. EACH state is dealing with this in their own way. Expect varying opinions about their success to continue on. Suspicions about the integrity of results will be with us for years to come. Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we need a pay study. I am a civil service employee and would love a 4.5 % raise. I have not had a raise in more than 8 years. We are all doing the jobs of 2-3 people in DHS.

Anonymous said...

It's better than Bethlehem giving a $3,000 raise to the Recreation Director after she got a $7,000 raise last year. Must be nice being married to the city Business Administrator.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" in others areas of Pennsylvania, particularly Philadelphia, and in several other states, the election process was ‘tainted’ without a doubt. Those matters are still being sorted through. To learn more, read about Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois for starters.
"


First, you are OT. You extremists can never stick to the subject being discussed, which helps explain why you get nearly everything wrong.

Second, you make assertions about a tainted election in Philly and other areas of Pa, and as proof, suggest we read about four other states. That is just cRaZy on its face. Go spew your BIG LIE somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

6:47 - Indeed! Suspicions will be around for years thanks to consensus shoppers like you. Does universal suffrage ring a bell? I'll get to reading all about the scandals in the states you mentioned. Where should I look? OAN right?

To keep droning on about this issue is absurd. You think us R's are to stupid to perpetuate the same fraud you rail against? Or stupid enough to get caught i.e. North Carolina ballot harvesting scandal, led by . . . Republicans!

Lastly, I have no issue with providing Id to vote. What's your solution? other than Whataboutisms

Anonymous said...

What a slap in the face of all the other ppl in that office. Guessing they are the only two that work in that office . But hey maybe best way to keep people's mouths closed is to pay them. Guessing Amy following chucky around like he was a rock star is paying off...

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Not fair to the rest of the HARD WORKING employees! I hope they do go after what they DESERVE TOO! ALL employees have be abused with an overload of work and being underpaid ONLY McCLURE's FAVORITES get raises. Now that he is in again, what does he care."

McClure was actually opposed to this raise. He gave everyone a step and refused to give a second step to the Amys. He's been overruled by County Council. This is the way things should work. Council should be exercising oversight all the time instead of acting as a rubber stamp. Moreover, the work done by both Amys is way above and beyond what I see. If you feel that you are also in that category, you should take your case to a Council member. If you are a union member, you need to make things known to your union agent. A union gives you great job protection, but you are part of a bargaining unit in which the exceptional can go unrecognized.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"It's about time Council steps up tp the plate and does what it is elected to do. Now do what is right for all the employees and mandate that a salary study be done for all employees. Unions negotiate fair wages for their employees belonging to the union, but career service employees are not given any choice."

A majority of Council members support a pay study. I would hope to see one next year. The study itself is not very expensive. but it will make many county employees unhappy. It still needs to be done to make sure everyone is being compensated fairly.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Got a tweet and checked out the video. what the hell is up with Zirinski? How many terms has she served? She sounded as dumb as a doorknob. She doesn't seem to know anything about her job. Seriously. This is one of the people running the county. Her questions were answered over and over but she still wanted to talk and talk and made very little sense. Good for the election staff they deserve a raise for their work. Good for Cusick and Heckman for standing up for them. Too bad McClure couldn't just do this himself. Glad the Council stepped in."

Zrinski worries about opening the door, but as Heckman observed, that door should always be open. Some might have an inflated opinion of their value, but I am also sure that some deserve a lot more money. If there are career service workers at Gracedale who have really excelled, they can make their case to Council members for more money. That is the way things are supposed to work. County Council does set the pay. I would suggest that you put your case together and reach out to her or any other member of Council.

I will say this about Zrinski. She is pretty responsive when people reach out to her.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Yes, we need a pay study. I am a civil service employee and would love a 4.5 % raise. I have not had a raise in more than 8 years. We are all doing the jobs of 2-3 people in DHS."

I know this is untrue. All county employees have seen their compensation go up over the past eight years. You do not help yourself when you are unable to tell the truth. The step system for civil service is smaller. I think a step is about 2.5%.

Anonymous said...

8:31, OT?

Bernie O'Hare said...

” Guessing Amy following chucky around like he was a rock star is paying off...”

As I indicated, the county admin opposed a two-step increase, so you are incorrect.

Anonymous said...

Yeah?? Ok?? This is a quick you help me I'll help you. He can not give that raise out because when the unions get to arbitration they will use that against him. But he can say he did not give that. County council did. He worked out a deal with lori. Ppl in this county just think ppl are stupid and blind. If Lamont and Chuck wanted to stop it there are ways. But they choose not to . Council loves to use the excuse, we don't negotiate with the unions. We would love to give you guys raises you deserve. But that's not up to us. Same old two step..

Anonymous said...

Are jobs being filled at current compensation?
a) No. A study and increases should be considered.
b) Yes. No action is necessary.

Are current employees performing adequately?
a) No. A study and increases should be considered to replace/upgrade personnel.
b) Yes. No action is necessary.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anything that fits your narrative hating on McClure and unions. The simple fact is that McClure thought one step was enough and Council disagrees. McClure is cheap. I’ve written about this numerous times. Unions will still be able to raise this issue during negotiations, and council participation in confidential union negotiations has been declared improper by the labor board in the past. You are pretty much wrong on all counts and just choose to create facts out of thin air to justify your bias.

Anonymous said...

Councilman Callahan is the only person man enough to say what truly is going on in bethlehem. While some council members just love to hear themselves repeat the same thing over and over others like to snicker and make faces when he tells the truth. Some Council members have no clue what the difference is between union and non union jobs. It is time to go after non union salaries as we all know they make the most money.

J said...

Good for them, it's well deserved.

But 4.5% for the rest of the career service employees is not adequate. With inflation at 6%, any less than that will not be a raise (in real dollars) for the county workers, who have already been underpaid for years.

Anonymous said...

If I heard correctly career service has not had step raises but did have cost of living raises. Be real no one gets 6 percent raises anymore. They used to get the step and the cost of living. When they stopped the step employees said I didn't get a raise when in fact they did get cost of living raises which is all you see anywhere. However during the step halt the unions did get step raises I believe. Most counties left step raises long ago. Hire at a fair rate and give cost of living based on merit. When most businesses can't afford giving raises I find it hard to justify 6-7 percent raises to county employees who receive excellent benefits of health care. 12 holidays. Personal days. Reward days and health benefits. Not a bad deal. Wish people could appreciate what they have

Anonymous said...

McClure is not cheap. Not when it comes to his cronies. He uses that as one of his many catchphrases when he just doesn't want to do something. It is a good thing the great election people got a raise. Word is he promised one to them years ago and then reneged and gave them what everyone got. It is unfortunate he would not let this happen without making a fuss. It is no secret he gave Zirinski the script she read from. She didn't talk to employees at Gracedale that was part of her act. She is all about herself.

McClure and Dertigner are known for their retribution and mean streaks. His way or the highway. It is unfortunate you have some unknowledgeable and easily manipulated people on county council. Guess some of them can't think for themselves. Why are they there.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Funny how you haters considered Amy Cozze one of McClure's cronies when he hired her and later made her the Voting Registrar. You had her following Dertinger like a lapdog. Then you claim that McClure was letting Council do it to somehow help him with union negotiations. Now you haters are claiming that Cozze was not a crony after all. Perhaps it's time you recognize you're just full of shit.

Anonymous said...

In fairness regarding Lamont's veracity, he did say our elderly were our most precious resource - right before he did nothing as so many died so cruelly at Gracedale. He's not exactly a top notch promise keeper.

Anonymous said...

12:31 I will say this, he isn't afraid to speak up about the non sense going on in City Hall. He has always fought for our Unions and good paying middle class jobs!!!

Anonymous said...

Lookie here Bernie, I'm sorry but I have issues with these Amy raises. Like seriously, county council is going to single out two employees and give them double the raises, UNACCEPTABLE! I get it, they do a great job, great for them, but so do so many other employees, what about them? I have been here for 27 years and I have NEVER EVER SEEN a two-step raise, that's a 9% raise, and Cozze has only been here for like, I think, two years. So how do all us other employees that do our jobs well with much more experience and knowledge of the county and years of service get this two-step raise?

Anonymous said...

You are correct