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Schuylkill County News

Another $250,000 Budget Adjustment, Another Stellar Display (sarc) of Transparency

The disturbing pattern continues at the Schuylkill County Courthouse.

That pattern? Indicating that a big chunk of money is getting moved around but providing no details about it ahead of time so the public can provide input on it or question it.

On Wednesday, Schuylkill County Commissioners approved yet another massive budget adjustment. This was for $250,000 and it involved the increasingly controversial Human Resources department.

The $250,000 budget maneuver the Commissioners unanimously approved is to cover expenses related to the Consent Decree the County agreed to with the US Dept. of Justice earlier this year. That Consent Decree is related to the Justice Dept.’s lawsuit settlement with the Courthouse over its alleged treatment of employees.

If you’ll remember, the Justice Dept. joined the lawsuit originally filed by the 4 Jane Doe plaintiffs against Commissioner George Halcovage and several County officials and the County government, as a whole. The Justice Dept. mostly focused on the alleged retaliation the whistleblowing Jane Doe plaintiffs faced since filing their lawsuit back in 2021.

Earlier this year, the County settled with the Justice Dept. and agreed to implement new HR policies and practices, as well as training of employees, with the help of approved third-party contractors.

The money approved on Wednesday is to cover the expected expenses with a handful of firms through the end of 2023. Money the County already budgeted for these expenses within its HR Dept. has already been spent, Finance Director Paul Buber said Wednesday.

“There was money in the HR budget for most of these services but most of the funds that have been allocated have been expended,” Buber told Commissioners. 

The quarter-million bucks that is going to be moved from the County’s “contingency” fund to the HR Dept. budget will go to pay the following firms, either HR companies or law firms:

  • Reading-Berks HR Management, Wyomissing
  • Flamm Walton Heimbach
  • Gabriel Fera
  • McNees Wallace & Nurick
  • Dinsmore & Shohl
  • Employment Practices Group 

The Disturbing Pattern Continues

As concerning as it is that the County is essentially forced into making these expenses because of the way it allegedly treated these 4 Jane Doe employees AFTER they filed their lawsuit, the approval of this budget transfer follows a pattern we’ve been noting for more than a month now.

Once again, this $250,000 budget transfer was simply noted as such on the public meeting Agenda. The only detail the County provided was that it was for the HR Department.

That’s it. The Commissioners OK this level of transparency on the Agenda, or lack thereof, time and time again.

Not providing the details about why the County needs to make this move and what it involves, exactly, is downright disrespectful to the public. It gives people no chance to question or comment on the spending.

By the time anyone has a chance to protest or question this move, it’s too late. Buber and the County only provided details about the budget moves like the one on Wednesday, one last week, the Airport Authority bailout, and so many other times in the past, after the Public Comment portion of the meeting during which it’s approved is over.

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  1. PTFloridian

    July 6, 2023 at 7:30 am

    Are the Commissioners violating any rules of governance?…if so, who is responsible for their oversight?
    … their ignorance and brazen neglect of transparency is alarming and has now become commonplace. A finger to the eye of the people who elected them…

    • Canary Commenter

      July 6, 2023 at 9:49 am

      No, they’re not breaking any rules with what we’re reporting. It’s just arrogance. And we’ve seen it be sneaky (Airport Authority) and we’re sure they’ll be sneaky about it again.

      Also, congratulations are in order. Your comment was the Canary’s 5,000th Comment! Congratulations and Thank You!

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