The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 22, 2013

Payday coming for shorted Cambria workers

Kathy Mellott
kmellott@tribdem.com

EBENSBURG — When payday for Cambria County employees and contract workers arrives Friday, 26 constables will receive a check for the first time in a month.

Also on the list to receive money are 27 tax collectors looking for past-due payments.

County Controller Ed Cernic Jr. made the announcement Tuesday.

At the same time, the county commissioners agreed to shift a former controller’s office employee who now works in the elections office back to Cernic’s staff to help with the logjam of work that prevented the constables and tax collectors from being paid Jan.11.

“We rearranged some things and actually held some reports off that I had to do in January,” Cernic said.

Commissioners Chairman Douglas Lengenfelder said, “It’s a temporary move, good through the end of February, to help him get through this busy time.”

Cernic and the commissioners have clashed over hiring a replacement for an employee who resigned in November.

Cernic has said he needs his full complement of staff to perform the work.

The commissioners held off on hiring a replacement, hoping someone from within the county system would opt to transfer to the controller’s office.

Longtime Johnstown-area Constable Sam Allison told county officials at the Jan. 10 commissioners meeting that he and many others were facing a payless payday the following day.

Cernic said his office’s workload is heavy at this time of year and staff could not be stretched far enough to process the payments for constables and tax collectors.

Though the checks were being processed Tuesday, Cernic cautioned that, at least for the constables, the payments will be 80 percent of the amount due.

“We’ll try to get them caught up in the next two weeks,” Cernic said.

Concerned about the tight county budget, the commissioners have been hesitant to add another person to the payroll, Commissioner Mark Wissinger said, but that is changing.

“We’re planning on hiring a person for that office in March,” Wissinger said. “It most likely will be a new person.”

Processing invoices submitted by the constables is time-consuming because of a standard Cernic initiated several years ago to better track the many responsibilities handled by the constables.

Cernic said Tuesday that by keeping close tabs on the records and disallowing some expenses that had been reimbursed in the past, his office has saved the county what he estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past eight years.

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