Tuesday, December 9, 2014

SUE, BABY, JUST SUE!! ... to scapegoated County employee Jason Parrish

207,000 views.  Thank You
11 days since the publicly humiliation of Jason Parrish

Last updated: December 06. 2014 3:12PM - 3593 Views 
Betty Roccograndi

Betty Roccograndi, Zeroing In
Betty Roccograndi, Zeroing In
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“To err is human; to forgive divine,” poet Alexander Pope wrote.

No it’s not. OFF WITH HIS HEAD!

Human error is the reason Luzerne County officials gave for 1,400 county employees not being paid on time a week ago.

The human was identified as Jason Parrish, a county budget and policy analyst. But management did not forgive Parrish for his egregious error of not taking care of business while on an approved vacation. He was swiftly fired.

Before Parrish was named as the culprit, County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz told theTimes Leader that the employee responsible for sending an electronic fund transfer releasing paychecks left for vacation without making arrangements for someone else to handle it. Wow, who knew one employeeamong hundreds there had so much power?

As a result, county employees saw red on Black Friday, a paid holiday for them. We don’t yet know how many checks for bills may have bounced all over the place.

The Keystone Kourthouse strikes again. Isn’t an employee allowed to take a vacation without worrying that the courthouse could plunge into utter chaos while he’s gone?

Short of intentionally not transferring the payroll funds, an abrupt firing seems pretty harsh. How fast can you say lawsuit?

The timing couldn’t have been worse. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed a grievance earlier that week because county Manager Robert Lawton, acting like a manager and not Santa Claus, refused to honor a past practice of paying employees early, or the day before Thanksgiving.

That sent AFSCME into a tizzy, but it was nothing compared to what followed.

“The rest of the world is out doing Christmas shopping, and our workers don’t have money,” said an “appalled” Paula Schnelly, AFSCME leader. ”I just can’t believe they would do this to the county employees,” she told a local reporter. Well, apparently, it wasn’t “they” who did this; it was he, a fellow employee.

Another grievance on the way?

Even though county officials vowed to cover any overdraft charges and penalties employees may have incurred, Ms. Schnelly stated that if they don’t, another grievance could be filed. You’re kidding.

“The county can’t ever make up for damage to their credit ratings,” the union leader said. Uh Oh!

As soon as management officials became aware of the problem – although we’re not quite sure they weren’t part of the problem — they immediately tried to rectify it, Swetz said. He added that by 9:30 a.m. Friday, he contacted PNC Bank to release the funds. Luckily, bank employees were on the job because Black Friday isn’t a holiday for them as it is for county courthouse workers.

“We deeply regret that this happened We apologize sincerely for any inconvenience to any county employee who has been affected by this error. We will do everything we can to make it right,” Lawton said.

Oh yeah, try telling that to the federal Labor Board and an arbitrator, pal.

Possibly emboldened by county Councilman Edward Brominski’s Johnny-on-the-spot assertion that failure to pay the employees on time violates federal labor law, one person identified online as ”ScrewedCountyEMPLOYEE” said, come Monday, he is calling a lawyer and the Labor Board.

Another worker complained that she had to leave a cart full of “stuff” at the store because her debit card declined payment. ”This is unbelievable. How bad can this county get?” she asked TL county reporter Jennifer Learn-Andes.

Pretty bad apparently because right now, the Keystone Kourthouse is looking like a three-ring circus.

Jumping at another opportunity to criticize Lawton, deposed county controller Walter Griffith told another newspaper, “The buck stops at whoever he can fire to take the heat off of his desk.” Oh, Walter, come on. If Lawton should be blamed for anything, it’s for not foreseeing that one county employee held so much power that his vacation could trigger such a mess.

In what’s becoming a tired refrain already, county council members Kathy Dobash and Stephen A. Urban called for Lawton’s resignation.

County officials plan to ask the financial institutions where employees’ checks bounced to forgive any fees or penalties, which would be divine.

Here’s hoping the bankers who can make that happen aren’t like Henry Potter, the scrooge from ”It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Betty Roccograndi is a business owner, Wyoming Valley resident and award-winning journalist. Zeroing In appears weekly.