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Still Not Done – Schuylkill Commissioners Retain Tax Office Consultants After 5 Months of Work

When the Schuylkill County Commissioners voted to basically blow up the Tax Claims and Tax Assessors offices at the Courthouse earlier this year, you’d assume they had a plan for how to fix it.

It was said at the time the controversial decision was made that the way things were just weren’t working out.

But no one at the Courthouse could tell you exactly how they weren’t working. And they sure as heck didn’t have a clue how to fix it.

That’s why Commissioners back in April hired a pair of consultants at $40 per hour each to help manage the transition to the new way of doing things at the tax offices.

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After 5 months, however, that transition still isn’t complete.

Schuylkill County Retains Tax Offices Consultants thru 2021

In fact, last week, Schuylkill County Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of extending the contracts for those 2 consultants, Anthony Alu and Ginny Murray. They were sold as having the right expertise in helping Schuylkill County official transform those offices into how they want them run.

Their original contracts expired at the end of August and County Administrator Gary Bender said last week, they’ll be needed in the future, at least until the end of the year.

Commissioners Boots Hetherington and George Halcovage voted in favor of extending Alu’s and Murray’s contracts. Gary Hess said no.

The reason Hess dissented from extending those contracts is the same as why he voted against hiring those consultants initially. Hess believes, at least through his no votes on these issues, the moves involving the tax office in the last year are inappropriate considering the legal dark cloud hanging over them.

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At least 2 of the Jane Doe plaintiffs involved in the sexual harassment lawsuit against the County are believed to be working there. One of their complaints in the lawsuit is that they’ve faced retaliation at work for speaking up and that it’s ongoing – including shaking up the tax offices as the County has recently.

These consultant contracts aren’t cheap, either. Both Alu and Murray are getting $40 an hour. The contract extension runs through the end of 2021 … for now. But don’t worry, much of the work Alu can do at this point, according to what Bender said last week, can be done over the phone, as if that’s supposed to make it better. Same money, less work.

And to the best of our knowledge, the key move made at the direction of the consultants was to hire a new tax assessor who, at the time of his hire, wasn’t technically qualified to hold the position. So, the County had to pay him, Kent Hatter, to take a 3-week training course just to take a test to get certified for the job. Luckily, he passed. But this is what you hire not one, but two consultants for?

Seems like anyone at the Courthouse could have made that same decision and we’re already paying them. The real question here is, after 5 months of consultation, how is this office shake-up not complete?

The County was so sure it knew the way those offices were running was not working. But it STILL has no idea how to fix it on its own. And it’ll take at least 9 months – and two high-priced consultants – to get the job done … until they need to extend those contracts a little longer into 2022.

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