Luzerne County administration tackling two festering workforce issues

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | September 18th, 2016 10:18 pm

Two long-standing Luzerne County government workforce problems will be addressed in the next 90 days — a lack of performance evaluations and an out-of-sync payroll schedule that prepays some employees for time they have not yet worked, said county Manager C. David Pedri.

Prior county commissioners had acknowledged the need for a performance evaluation system since January 2004, but it didn’t materialize.

The council’s personnel code adopted shortly after the customized home rule government took effect in 2012 said workers should receive performance evaluations “as soon as reasonably possible,” but the administration held off to develop a review system.

Pedri recently told the council the Administrative Services Division will implement and train supervisors on the performance review process within 90 days.

“This is something that has been identified by county council in the past as a major issue. We have to have the employees know where they’re going with their career here,” Pedri said.

Most county employees, union or not, have received at least one raise in the last two years.

Court officials have their own personnel policy and reinstated regular reviews of 300 workers in court branches in 2012 to address deficiencies and discuss improvements.

The payroll schedule problem has been identified as an issue that must be corrected for at least a decade.

Employees are paid on the same day but for different time periods, with some in arrears and others in advance. The hours for those paid in advance must be estimated to process their paychecks on time, with errors corrected after the fact. Officials say a significant percentage of workers fall into the advance-pay category, but the number was not immediately available.

The conversion to one payroll schedule may be implemented over several pays because employees must go without pay for the number of days involved in their advanced payments, which is four or five days in most cases, officials said.

The Budget/Finance Division will select an outside vendor to assist within the next 90 days, although the transition may not occur until 2017, Pedri said.

“It’s got to stop. It’s 2016. We have to get everybody on the same payroll,” Pedri said.

The vendor also will set up a new and more efficient payroll processing system compatible with the county’s biometric time clocks and handle employee income tax information that takes budget/finance staffers away from fiscal monitoring duties, Pedri said.

Five entities responded to the county’s proposal seeking payroll processing assistance, he said.

Among Pedri’s other 90-day goals for various divisions:

• Correctional Services

Prison officials plan to purchase additional radios for correctional officers and have more charging stations set up as part of a review of communication issues.

Union officials have asked the administration to address radio concerns to ensure they work properly when the officers need help, Pedri said.

“Sometimes they worked in the past, and I’ve heard some horror stories where they didn’t,” Pedri said of the radios.

• Human Services

Children and Youth workers are completing an exhaustive search of all contracts with outside providers to determine if the agency is “getting the best bang for their buck,” Pedri said.

• Public Defender

The division plans to establish an expungement clinic to review requests to erase past offenses from criminal records.

The eligibility scope would be limited to summary offenses or certain misdemeanor offenses of which the accused were found not guilty, Pedri said. The program is worth pursuing because the accused may have difficulty obtaining employment, even though they were deemed innocent, he said.

• Office of Law

Solicitors are reviewing all county human resources policies, procedures and practices to determine if revisions are warranted.

• Operational Services

Construction is set to begin on a new roof at the Bernard C. Brominski building on West North Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Luzerne County Manager David Pedri with to the media during a briefing in July. Pedri has laid out a 90-day plan for advancing county government operations. County Manager David Pedri with to the media during a briefing in July. Pedri has laid out a 90-day plan for advancing county government operations. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.