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Software firm has mixed record


February 17. 2013 8:04AM
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Two neighboring counties had opposite experiences with New World Systems Corp., the Michigan-based company recently hired to provide Luzerne County's financial software program.


Officials in Schuylkill County sued the company over system malfunctions in 2008, while Lackawanna County's chief financial officer is so pleased with the program he traveled here during a presentation earlier this year to recommend it to Luzerne County.


Schuylkill County officials accused the company of installing a faulty courthouse computer system. According to published reports, workers encountered frozen screens and other problems with the system.


The county ended up settling the lawsuit, recovering $150,000 of $719,000 paid to the company, reports said.


Schuylkill County commissioners did not respond to a request for more information last week.


Luzerne County Councilman Rick Morelli said someone alerted him to Schuylkill County's past issues with the company after a council majority voted Sept. 25 to hire New World. Morelli voted against the contract, saying council should spend more time considering and publicly discussing the $1.28 million contract.


"This is the biggest contract the new council awarded since we became involved, and what precedent are we setting when we get a 70-page document Friday night and on Tuesday vote on it after a short presentation?" Morelli said.


Council members who supported the contract said they extensively reviewed the contract, which was released to council the day it was negotiated, and received answers to all follow-up questions. They said the software will save money, improve financial tracking and was unanimously endorsed by a team of county administrators who evaluated all options.


County Manager Robert Lawton said he will seek more information if council requests an explanation about outside litigation against any companies hired to work in the county, though he said most major companies have been sued.


"Few companies are able to achieve success without being subjected to litigation in an environment where anybody can sue anybody for anything," Lawton said.


Lackawanna County's Chief Financial Officer Thomas Durkin said his county implemented New World's financial and human resources software system in 2005.


"I can't say enough good things about New World. I think the system is excellent," Durkin said. "We've had nothing but good experience with the company and system, and I think Luzerne County will find the same is true."


Durkin said the system is user-friendly, which allows more employees to load data and view information. An access level is customized for each user, preventing security breaches and manipulation of data, he said.


The system also allows multiple levels of review by various employees before purchase orders or bills are authorized, making it easier to impose checks and balances and create a virtual paper trail documenting everyone who eyeballed a transaction, he said.


Durkin also said he can retrieve detailed reports on a particular expense or budget category in seconds.


July 1 is the target for Luzerne County's primary payroll and financial records to be switched to the new system.


Personnel code changes on hold

Luzerne County Council Chairman Tim McGinley has removed county Manager Robert Lawton's proposed personnel code amendments from Tuesday's agenda because Lawton requested additional time to revise his submission.


"We'll probably end up having some type of work session before moving to a vote," McGinley said.


Lawton proposed changes allowing management to customize the recruitment and selection process for certain job openings.


Several council members said they wanted language added to ensure council and the public know all hiring procedures ahead of time if the plan will vary by position and department.





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