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Coal Region Op-Ed

Consultants Have Too Much Power at Schuylkill County Courthouse

schuylkill county consultants


schuylkill county consultants

There is a chance that Schuylkill County government officials dismantled the way the Tax Assessment Office and Tax Claims Office were run as a way of getting back at at least 2 of the 4 women suing them for sexual harassment.

Again, there’s a chance. That’ll be determined in court.

There’s also a chance they did it because they genuinely believed, as they said earlier this year, that the way they were being run just wasn’t working out.

If that’s the case, as sure as they were of that, they are just as surely clueless on how to fix the problems with the two offices.

That’s because the County Commissioners and other officials have given far too much power to outside consultants and no one really seems qualified to hold them accountable.

Schuylkill County Consultants Have Too Much Power

To help the County affect the changes needed to overhaul these two tax offices, Schuylkill County Commissioners voted to hire Anthony Alu and Ginny Murray. But since that happened, county taxpayers have seen very little for the up to $4,200 each of them is making for their consulting.

Murray was hired in late-April. Alu came on board a few weeks before Murray. That’s at least 5 full months of them working together. So, after all this time, why aren’t these offices up and running at full steam?

All indications are, these offices are in the same state of disarray as they were this Spring. Let’s look at just some of the decisions made since the Commissioners decided to bring on the consultants:

  • Hired a new Chief Tax Assessor who wasn’t qualified for the job – Kent Hatter had to complete a lengthy course and pass an exam to eventually get certified.
  • Suspended 2 employees – The employees just happen to be 2 of the 4 women suing the county. County Administrator Gary Bender said he approved the suspensions. He’s also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
  • Hired an Interim Tax Claim Assistant Director – After all this time and all this consulting work, hiring an Interim anything seems unfathomable.

We can only infer what’s happening with these consultants and their work overhauling the tax offices. They don’t speak in public. The Commissioners that hired them don’t seem interested in having them report on their work in public.

The public decisions that have been made as a result of their work (listed above) don’t seem to indicate we’re any closer to revamped operations than we were at the beginning of the year.

The American Rescue Plan Consultant

That’s not the only consulting contract that seems to be rolling along unchecked. Earlier this year, the Commissioners OK’d a contract with the same firm that provided consulting work last year on the CARES Act money that was spent … also questionably.

We brought back Susquehanna Accounting and Consultants this year to help Schuylkill County administer its American Rescue Plan money. It’s getting $275 an hour for this work in 2021.

The trouble is … we have no idea how much we’ve paid this company and have no idea how much, if any, of the American Rescue Plan has been spent.

None of the expenses approved by Commissioners so far this year have been earmarked as being funded by the ARP, except for the consultant. That doesn’t necessarily mean expenses already approved won’t be applied to the ARP funds later this year.

But the point here is, the public is being kept in the dark on this consulting contract and also on what’ being done with the $13+ million in Rescue Plan funds.

Are Commissioners Supposed to be Consultant Managers?

When the County started hiring these consultants, we wondered if they were even necessary in the first place. Shouldn’t what they’re being hired to do be the work of the people elected to offices at the Courthouse?

At the very least, shouldn’t the people there who decided two offices weren’t functioning properly have some clue on how to fix it? How can anyone make any expectations of consultants if you give the consultants all the power?

The same goes for the American Rescue Plan funds. Last year, Susquehanna basically admitted that it shifted expenses around at the end of the year and applied the CARES Act money to things already budgeted for at the beginning of the year. That’s certainly work someone at the Courthouse could do with the American Rescue Plan funds. It’s not consulting; it’s just clever accounting.

The Commissioners admitting the rules are too complicated, thus necessitating a consultant’s help, shouldn’t fly for an excuse. And again, if you say you don’t know what you’re doing at all, how can you effectively manage or hold accountable the consultant you’re hiring?

What would you say you do here?

So really, who’s doing what or anything at Schuylkill County Courthouse these days?

The two biggest projects right now are being managed by unelected consultants. And no one working at the Courthouse seems even remotely qualified to hold those consultants accountable.

What would anyone up there say they actually do there?


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jackie Hellinger

    October 14, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    I think they should all be fired not one of them no what the hell their doing nor do they care just collect the pay check.

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