Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fairness in hiring hot topic

February 19. 2013 5:17PM
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Several Luzerne County residents attended Tuesday's county council meeting to demand a fair hiring process for all positions.

The topic came up because Assistant Solicitor Brian Bufalino made a presentation explaining the definition of salaried employees classified as exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which essentially means they're not legally entitled to overtime.

That presentation raised the possibility county Manager Robert Lawton would be reintroducing proposed personnel code amendments allowing the manager and other department heads latitude to decide how to fill roughly 350 exempt positions.

However, Lawton said after Tuesday's meeting that he made it clear he would not reintroduce the proposed changes when he withdrew them from council consideration last month.

Lawton said the informational presentation was scheduled because some citizens had expressed a need for clarification on exempt employees.

Lawton said departments under his control will follow the current personnel code hiring procedures for non-exempt employees when selecting exempt workers.

These procedures require public advertising of job openings, human resource department handling of initial screening and the rating and ranking of applicants based on predetermined skills.

The county's elected district attorney and judges have argued they have authority to follow their own hiring procedures.

County Controller Walter Griffith, the only other elected county official under home rule, has said he would voluntarily follow the personnel code hiring procedures.

Home rule charter drafters Veronica Ciaruffoli, Rick Heffron and Bob Wanyo told council and Lawton Tuesday that merit selection and equal access to jobs were important facets of the new government.

Wanyo told the officials they can't embarrass this charter.

Let's do it the right way. Let's do it the home rule way, Wanyo said.

Heffron said home rule requires all applicants to be treated the same.

Don't mess up now, Heffron said.

Kingston resident Therman Guamp said the county is doomed to failure if a consistent procedure isn't followed for all positions.

What's next

Luzerne County Council will hold a public budget hearing at 6 p.m. today at the county's Emergency Management Agency building, Water Street, Wilkes-Barre.

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