Story | Nov 21, 2014 | 9:19 PM
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Story | Nov 27, 2014 | 9:00 PMIt was one of the biggest shopping days of the year. But when Luzerne County employees awoke Friday morning, they found their paychecks had not been deposited into their bank accounts as promised, a lapse a union boss called “atrocious.” “It’s the start of the holiday shopping season and people can’t go shopping,” said Paula Schnelly, president of the large Luzerne County chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and an employee in the district attorney’s office. “I’m appalled by the fact that people haven’t been paid. I just can’t believe they would do this to the county employees.” Schnelly said she has received numerous calls and texts from employees who report their paychecks have not arrived at banks including the Luzerne County Federal Credit Union, Choice One Community Credit Union and PNC Bank. John Engleman, a telecommunicator at Luzerne County 911, posted a comment on The Citizens’ Voice Facebook page saying that he has automatic payments set up for his mortgage, car payment and some utilities. “So far I have 5 insufficient fund charges because of this,” he wrote. “Employee appreciation at (its) finest.” Administration officials attributed the error to a miscommunication and said they had corrected the error by Friday afternoon. Some employees were paid early in the afternoon, while payments were pending for the rest. “As county manager, I want to extend an apology to every county employee who was affected by this error,” County Manager Robert Lawton said. “I had the same inconvenience that many other people had. We regret that it happened and we will not allow it to happen again.” Brian Swetz, the head of Luzerne County’s budget and financial services division, said he learned about 9:30 a.m. that no direct deposit payments had been made. The problem was that the person who handles payroll was on vacation and nobody from the county approved the electronic transfer submitted to PNC Bank, which originates the payroll transactions that are sent to the Federal Reserve and other financial institutions, he said. At about 12:30 p.m., Swetz sent the required files to PNC Bank, which would forward them on, he said. Employees who bank with PNC Bank were paid a short time later, and the rest will get paid as their banks receive the files, he said. That was expected to happen later Friday for other major banks, including Wells Fargo and M&T Bank, but it wasn’t clear how long it would take for payment to clear at smaller credit unions, he said. Lawton said the county is contacting the banks and credit unions employees are known to use to apprise them of the situation, and that the Luzerne County Federal Credit Union had agreed to come in and post the payments Friday. The union previously filed a grievance over this week’s paycheck, noting that the Luzerne County Personnel Policy says, “Whenever a payday falls on a holiday, paychecks will be distributed on the preceding workday.” County Manager Robert Lawton issued a response citing his executive power, noting that the policy expressly states it is “not intended to be a contract, express or implied.” He sent county employees a memo Nov. 13 saying that “county employees will be paid on Friday November 28th, which is the scheduled payday for pay period 24.” Lawton said the error had nothing to do with the holiday schedule and that it was simply the result of “human error.” “We’re going to do everything possible in terms of policies and procedures to make sure that county government doesn’t grind to a halt because one person isn’t at their desk on a given day,” Lawton said. Kingston resident and county government watchdog Brian Shiner said he had heard from employees who hadn’t gotten paid in departments including the 911 call center, Children and Youth Services and the Area Agency on Aging. The hold-up over paychecks is not only an inconvenience, he said. Many employees have automatic payments set up on their accounts and could end up not having enough to cover their bills as a result, he said. “We’ve got a lot of very unhappy people,” Shiner said. “The morale in our courthouse is at an all time low, and then to do something like this?” Swetz said the county intended to “make everyone whole” by issuing paychecks quickly and trying to resolve any issues that arose from the delay. “Ideally, we’d like to get any credit we could from the financial institution — explaining the situation and seeing if they would credit anything,” Swetz said. “But if not or if an employee only receives partial credit, it would be up to the county to make each individual whole for any overdraft or any kind of fees for their money not being in the account (Friday) morning.”
Story | Nov 18, 2014 | 2:41 PM
WETHERSFIELD — The town council tabled action on a new union contract Monday to obtain a legal ruling on a Republican charge that a conflict of interest prohibits Democrats from voting on the agreement. At issue is $1,500 in donations made in...
Story | Nov 13, 2014 | 5:51 PM
Story | Nov 8, 2014 | 2:06 PM