The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 13, 2013

Payless payday unacceptable

Cambria commissioners, controller should have acted to accommodate tax collectors and constables


The Tribune-Democrat

— We’re appalled that more than 50 workers expecting a check from Cambria County on Friday had a payless payday.

The money was there, but there wasn’t a clerk available to issue the checks. That’s what we’ve been told.

Hooey.

We’re not buying into this political battle between the majority commissioners and Controller Ed Cernic Jr. over a vacancy in the controller’s office.

Whether one of the commissioners or Mr. Cernic himself, somebody should have taken charge, pushed all else aside and issued checks to the 27 tax collectors and 26 constables, who earned their money.

Shame on all of these officials.

At issue, according to our Kathy Mellott, was a vacancy that has left the controller’s office without enough people to do the work.

Constable Sam Allison wasn’t happy and we don’t blame him.

“This is the first time in all the years I’ve been a constable that this has happened,” Allison told the county commissioners.

“They put their lives on the line, and why do we get a letter saying we have to wait until February? The constables have not stopped working.”

Maybe they should.

We deplore strikes and work stoppages. They accomplish nothing. However, no one should be asked to work without being paid when the money itself isn’t at issue.

Majority Commissioners Doug Lengenfelder and Mark Wissinger said they have advertised the controller office vacancy internally, but no one has applied.

The staffing shortage prompted the commissioners to urge Cernic to prioritize work and to use the time to pay individuals first, Lengenfelder said.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Cernic has pointed out that nonunion employees doing union labor is a recipe for a grievance.

We don’t support deliberate illegal activity, but when emergencies occur, emergency actions are warranted.

Wissinger pointed out that there is no hiring freeze, but that efforts are ongoing to avoid hiring new people and, instead, transfer within the ranks to fill vacancies.

Minority Commissioner Tom Chernisky agreed that the contract workers should have been paid on time.

We are strong supporters of any efforts at the courthouse to hold the line on spending and to eliminate all waste.

We’re also cognizant that Cernic and his staff do a great job balancing the books and paying the bills.

With a skintight budget, it isn’t always easy.

Pay the workers, then sit down and solve the vacancy dilemma.

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