Wilkes-Barre mayor says city paying for outside help to ‘break in’ HR director

By Jerry Lynott - [email protected] | February 13th, 2017 5:52 pm - updated: 6:17 pm.

WILKES-BARRE — A former Luzerne County employee has been working for the city, teaching its human resources director the ropes until she can do the job, budgeted at $72,100 a year, Mayor Tony George said.

Jack McCutcheon, who retired from the county’s Human Services Department as a human resource analyst, works part-time without benefits. His hours are capped at 25 a week and he’s paid between $25 and $30 an hour, the mayor said Monday.

The mayor said city HR Director Nicole Ference does not have experience negotiating contracts and described McCutcheon’s role as “breaking her in.”

“He’s helping out until we get through all these negotiations,” George said.

“I was hoping we would get done with them,” the mayor said.

The city has been in negotiations with three of its four labor unions. Their contracts expired at the end of last year. Talks are continuing with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 401 and the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 1310.

The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 104 also has been in talks with the city. But due to the length of the negotiations and the lack of a new contract has filed for arbitration.

The contract with the Wilkes-Barre City Police Benevolent Association runs until the end 2019.

The mayor compromised with city council to pass his $47.1 million budget for this year. It included a 19.7-mill property tax increase, lower than the 30 mills he initially requested, and, in order to balance it, cut $771,571 in expenses and revenues.

He promised to keep costs down and defended the additional expense of McCutcheon, saying Ference continues to do double duty, as are other people at City Hall.

“She’s still doing her old job too. She was the payroll coordinator,” he said. The position, budgeted for $51,969 plus benefits this year, has not been filled, the mayor said.

The mayor said McCutcheon had a similar arrangement with the previous administration of Tom Leighton. A message left at McCutcheon’s Wilkes-Barre home was not returned Monday.

George said McCutcheon was unavailable for two weeks, but would be helping out afterwards. The city has eight arbitrations over the next two months in addition to the contract negotiations, the mayor said.


By Jerry Lynott

[email protected]

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott