Friday, July 11, 2014

Residents question payment to ex-secretary

Residents question $2,000 ‘bonus’ Christine Casey received

December 30. 2013 11:47PM

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Ashley Borough Council will have a reorganization meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 6, followed immediately by a work session. The next regular meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14. Beginning in February, work sessions will be at 6:30 p.m. every first Tuesday and meetings will be at 6:30 p.m. every second Tuesday. Work sessions and meetings will be at the fire hall on Ashley Street.

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ASHLEY — Borough council breezed through a meeting Monday until a supposed $2,000 bonus paid to the former secretary without a public vote came up during the public comment session.

Resident Ron Wickizer asked why council authorized a full paycheck plus a $2,000 bonus to the former borough secretary even though some borough bills weren’t paid.

Greg Gulick, who was just appointed to the newly created borough manager position at the previous meeting, said former borough Secretary Christine Casey wasn’t working a full 40-hour week and, he assumed, paid the most important bills.

After the meeting, Council President Joe Gorham said the $2,000 paid to Casey was not a bonus, it was compensation for actual hours that she worked. He said she was previously a salaried employee, and there was no code to enter in the payroll system for additional hours worked, so she entered a code for a bonus.

Councilman Don Sipple said council was never made aware of additional hours worked, nor did council vote to approve the $2,000 payment during a vote to approve payroll. Sipple said he heard “on the street” that Casey was given “a bonus.”

Before leaving, Gorham said a council committee was polled and approved the payment. He said the committee has approved payments to contractors for the past several years without full council votes. Sipple asked where the documentation was for the hours Casey worked. Gorham said Casey has the documentation.

He said the controversy was based on “sour grapes” and “vendettas.”

After Gorham left, Sipple produced a copy of Casey’s paysheet showing a payment of $2,774, which represented 43 hours worked in a two-week period and noted the other $2,000 as a “bonus.”

Another resident pointed out that $2,000 divided by Casey’s $18-per-hour pay rate would equate to 111.11 hours, which would suggest she worked 154.11 hours for the borough in two weeks. He also said Casey works a new full-time job and adding two 40-hour weeks from that job would suggest she worked an average of 16.7 hours a day for 14 days straight between the two jobs.

Sipple said he believes the $2,000 payment should be returned to the borough.

Also during public comment, Wickizer said he “heard on the street” that “there’s cash being left somewhere in the borough building.”

Gorham said the issue of a courier not picking up bank deposits of garbage sticker sales was discussed at an executive session Sunday night and took issue to that information being leaked to the public.

“Why don’t we put that on (the TV news) so people can break into the borough building and steal it?” Gorham asked, sarcastically. “That makes a lot of sense.”

He said the issue has since been addressed.

In regular business, council authorized:

• applying for a $400,000 local share grant from the state gaming fund allocations for 2014 to cover renovations and move-in costs at the former Ehrlich building, which the borough purchased using a previous $400,000 local share grant from the state gaming fund. Gorham said the borough has money in a capital improvement fund, but council would prefer not to deplete the fund.

• a commercial appraisal by Alan Rosen on the Ehrlich building not to exceed $1,500.

• having an independent contractor help Gulick familiarize himself with the borough’s accounting program — QuickBooks — and office management at a maximum $15 per hour, with a total not to exceed $10,000.

• the purchase of 69-70 Mary St. from the Luzerne County tax sale repository for $500 or less for the purpose of eventual demolition. The structure partially collapsed about seven years ago and the borough has been unsuccessful at getting the owner to abate the problems.

• Postupak Co. to complete asbestos abatement inspections at the Mary Street property and 7-9 Main St. for a total of $4,000 or less.

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