Tempers erupt at county meeting

The undercurrent of tension between the three county commissioners surfaced at last week’s meeting with a tidal wave of accusations and finger-pointing.
Members of the audience launched a combined effort during the public comment portion of the meeting to talk about county employee morale, and the staff turnover rate.
The line of questioning was seemingly sparked by the termination of Chief Clerk Lana Adams on March 1. Commissioners Alan Hall and MaryAnn Warren voted in favor of move, while Commissioner Elizabeth Arnold sounded a “no” vote. “Not in agreeance (sic),” she said.
“I think you’ve really got problems,” said Bill Bayne of Liberty Twp.. “All three commissioners are involved…. you better talk to the other two before making a decision. I don’t know what’s going on, but an awful lot of people are leaving the courthouse.”
Bayne pointed out that a constant retraining of employees is financially burdensome.
Hall disagreed with Bayne’s assessment and said employee morale is “not horrible.”
Julanne Skinner, of Montrose, said, “There is a lot of hiring and firing go on, your attrition rate is too high. That’s bad for morale.”
She questioned how personnel matters are handled. “Do you convene (an executive session) or is it at whim?”
Hall countered that he believed the turnover rate in the county is not that high, and offered that many employees have left on their own accord to take higher paying jobs. However, he did note difficulty in keeping 9-1-1 dispatchers and corrections officers, and attributed it to the nature of those job duties.
Hall did say the county could increase employee salaries but that would come at a taxpayer cost.
He also explained the various processes of an employee termination – which he said required input from department heads and elected officials.
Skinner pressed on whether all three commissioners were involved in the decision making process about the Chief Clerk and asserted, “when two agree without involving the other…”
Hall cut in, “The other person was notified (of the executive session) and never answered the phone.”
He continued saying the commissioners are briefed each morning at 8:15 a.m. “There are two at those meetings. The other one doesn’t come in.”
Arnold said, “I was here all afternoon.”
The exchanges continued after the meeting but before the audience had even exited the room with Arnold saying, “People around here are afraid they will be fired if they don’t dot an ‘i’ or ‘cross a ‘t’, or put a comma in the right place.”
Warren responded, “I guess that was directed at me, since you were looking right at me when you said it.”
In the meeting, the commissioners approved the transfer of R.S. Stoud from the dual position of Deputy Chief Clerk/ Director of Public Safety to the position of Chief County Detective.
But the effective date of that transfer is still “to be determined,” as Stoud will likely stay on in the commissioners’ office until the Chief Clerk position is filled. Over the past several years, he has held the position of Deputy Chief Clerk, Chief Clerk and Acting Chief Clerk, in addition to his position as Director of Public Safety.
The Salary Board on Wednesday made some changes to the job titles affected by the move. A stand-alone position of Director of Public Safety was created, with a salary of $55,000. The dual position of Director of Public Safety/Deputy Chief Clerk will be eliminated upon Stoud’s transfer.
Two positions in the commissioners’ department were eliminated by the Salary Board, a Receptionist/Office Assistant and the Administrative Assistant to the Chief Clerk.
Hall said both were old positions that had not been filled.
A number of other personnel matters were also handled by the commissioners:
*Rhonda Goldsmith was hired as an Assessment Clerk;
*the hiring of Richard Stevens as a Deputy Sheriff by Sheriff Lance Benedict was acknowledged by the commissioners;
*the resignation of Joshua Diddick, from the Sheriff’s Department, effective March 15, was acknowledged, with regret;
*the resignation of Jerri Miller from Domestic Relations effective Feb. 24, was acknowledged with regret.
The county entered into a one-year service agreement with MCM Consulting Group for project management services of regional Next Gen 911 telephone systems and ESInet (Emergency Services Internet).
The cost of the services will amount to $48,000 and is paid through a grant from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
Hall explained the move would help the county meet the latest federal and state guidelines that are in place, but noted the connectivity issues throughout the county could be a problem.
The commissioners also issued several proclamations at the meeting:
*March 25 was proclaimed Human Resources Day in Susquehanna County;
*the month of March was proclaimed “Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and March 30 was set as C.A.S.U.A.L. (Colon Cancer Awareness Saves Unlimited Lives) Day in the county;
*April was proclaimed “Pennsylvania 811 Safe Digging Month;”
*April was also proclaimed “Child Abuse Prevention Month.”
At the close of the business portion of the meeting, the commissioners opened sealed bids for county surplus items. The items will be awarded to the highest bidders.
The county will dispose of the remaining items.

1 Comment on "Tempers erupt at county meeting"

  1. Shannon Marquardt | March 16, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Reply

    It appears Ms. Arnold did not realize that serving as a county commissioner involves more than showing up for handshakes and photos at pancake breakfasts.

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