The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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January 10, 2013

Cambria tax collectors, constables going unpaid

EBENSBURG — Today will be a payless payday for more than 50 constables and tax collectors in Cambria County.

At issue is the filling of a vacancy in the office of county controller Ed Cernic, a vacancy that Cernic said leaves him without enough people to do the work.

For longtime Constable Sam Allison of Johnstown, whatever the reason, a payday without pay is not acceptable.

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

Impacted are 26 constables and 27 tax collectors, all considered contract workers for the county. For now, no one can say when they will be paid.

The regular biweekly payroll for full- and part-time employees is handled by Cambria’s human resources department and will not be impacted by the staff shortage in the controller’s office, the commissioners said.

While the payments for the constables are not huge, they include money for services and mileage reimbursement, Allison said.

“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,” Allison said.

The employee in the controller’s office who handles payments for the constables and tax collectors resigned in early November and has not been replaced, Cernic said.

Commissioners Doug Lengenfelder and Mark Wissinger said they advertised the vacancy internally and no one applied.

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

“We agree that position is an important position and we opened it up to the entire county employee group,” he said.

While a hiring freeze is not in place, Wissinger said, efforts are ongoing to avoid hiring new people and transfer within the ranks to fill vacancies.

But those efforts aren’t helping the controller’s office or the constables and tax collectors who need to be paid, Cernic said.

The seven people comprising his staff don’t have time to process the constable and tax collectors’ information for payment and he has already been hit with a union grievance for having nonunion people do work handled by union workers, he said.

“That position not being filled disrupts the entire office,” Cernic said.

Commissioner Tom Chernisky wants the position filled as soon as possible with a new employee if need be.

“I do agree you should be paid,” he told Allison. “It should be filled now.”

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