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GOP head enters Schuylkill auditor dispute

Published August 26. 2010 05:00PM

A concerned citizen, employing the Pennsylvania Right To Know Law, appeared at Schuylkill County Commissioners' meeting Wednesday morning at the courthouse and asked for all information pertaining to the commissioners' hiring an auditor to perform a single audit of the county's financial operations for year 2009.

Preparation of the audit is being disputed between the auditor hired, Samuel Deegan, and the controller's office in which all the financial records are located.

Joseph Sterns, of Orwigsburg, who is the chairman of the Schuylkill County Republican Party, said he was appearing in the capacity as citizen taxpayer and not in his official capacity and wanted questions answered to determine whether the commissioners hired the proper auditor.

Sterns said he wanted to get a clear picture of the decision making process in hiring the auditor. He wanted all the information on all the firms who have received from the county an RFP (request for proposal) for the county government audit in 2009 and 2010; all the firms that responded to the RFP in 2009 and 2010; the estimates for the cost of the audit provided by the firms that responded in 2009 and 2010; the qualifications of the firms that responded for the county audit in 2009 and 2010; and the recorded minutes from discussions amongst the board of commissiones and anyone else pertinent that pertained to the selection of a firm to perform the county audit in 2009 and 2010. He handed his list of requests to the county solicitor, Eric Mika.

After the meeting Sterns commented that he understood the bid accepted was the lowest bid by $80,000 compared to the next lowest bidder. However, was it a wise decision and was any consideration given to experience? "Was it penny wise but pound foolish," he asked.

He gave an example, "I could offer to catch for the Phillies for $100 a game, however, what would my contribution be compared to an experienced catcher." Sterns said other counties have rules that the auditor should be from out of the county in order to get a true independent audit.

This week the commissioners filed an action in the county court against Controller Melinda Kantner asking the court to order her to produce an audit within 30 days. The audit was due July 1 to be presented to court and Department of Community and Environmental Development.

In the suit filed to court are most of the answers to questions requested by Stern. The suit states on October 12, 2009, the county mailed RFPs to 15 certified public accounting firms outside and within the county. The RFP solicited proposals from qualified certifed public accountant firms to perform an audit of the county's financial records for fiscal years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The county received four proposals and were evaluated and reviewed by a county audit committee which consisted of two independent CPA's, namely Thomas J. Campion and Edward Ebling, as well as the county financial analyst and county administrator.

The audit committee submitted three qualifying proposals to the county administrator. The proposal submitted by L. Samuel Deegan, CPA, of Pottsville, was accepted. He was the lowest bidder by $80,000 less than the remaining proposals. On Dec. 14, 2009, it was decided that Deegan's proposal met the criteria and that the controller and her staff were afforded an opportunity to discuss and comment. On Dec. 16, 2009, the commissioners, by a unanimous vote, engaged Deegan.

Other business

A proclamation was adopted honoring Walter Edward Glunz, a member of Boy Scout Troop 651, Summit Station, on becoming an Eagle Scout. He converted a dirt part of the Sweet Arrow Lake County Park Clubhouse grounds into a beautiful scenery area with his landscape program. He landscaped a 30 by 130 foot area in front of the clubhouse by planting two large trees, 21 shrubs, 55 perennials and spreading eight tons of Delaware River stone. It took him 195 hours with the help of a few friends. He is seeking enrollment into West Point Academy.

Since a charter was obtained for the newly formed Schuylkill County Transportation Authority, an organization meeting had been scheduled for August 30 at the courthouse.

A public hearing has been scheduled for October 13 in the commissioners' board room to provide an opportunity for citizens to comment on community development and housig needs for the county that may be addressed through funds from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program for 2011.

The commissioners approved a utility easement to PPL Electric Utilities Corporation to construct, operate and maintain its elecric and communication lines consisting of six poles, three anchor guys, overhead wires, cable, fixtures along Rausch Creek Road.

A purchase agreement was approved between the county juvenile probation department and Berks County Youth Services for detention beds, shelter care and prep program.The per diem for housing a delinquent in the detention center is $298 per day, shelter care, $213.03 per day and prep program, $231.55 per day.

Purchase of service agreements were entered on behalf of Children and Youth Services Agency with two providers, Children's Home of York, for foster care at $66.05 per day, drug and alcohol program, $175.77 per day and use of girl's residential treatment facility, $301.65 per day and Access Services, Orwigsburg, for mentoring group at $7.63 per unit; In Home Program at $20.36 per unit and assessment at $354 per unit.

An agreement was approved with Schuylkill Community Action, Pottsville, for period one year ending June 30, 2011, for Bridge Housing, $201,800 per year; Outreach Case Management, $36,080; project care, $10,560; emergency shelter, $2,500.

On behalf of Rest Haven Home a contract was entered with Lori's Angels, Schuylkili Haven, for provision of temporary nurse staffing at hourly fees agreed and a contract with County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania for provision of grant money in amount of $73,500 for the implementation of an electronic health records upgrade.

Personnel matters

The commissiones approved the hiring at Rest Haven Home and Hospital of eight part time nurse's aide trainees at $7.70 per hour. They were Claudia Dampman, Schuylkill Haven; Lauren McGurl, Shamokin; Anita Potts, Pottsville; Holly Wagner, Wyomissing; Lori Wagner, Pottsville; Carissa Long, Orwigsburg; Deborah McCready, Pottsville; and Catherine Dallago, Pine Grove.

Four part time nurse's aides were hired at $11.72 per hour. They were Michele Pyle, Frackville; Mary Gipe, Schuylkill Haven; Candace Snyder, Orwigsburg; and Judith Hulet, Saint Clair. Karen Hulet, Saint Clair, was hired as a part time licensed practical nurse at $15.99 per hour. Monica Yablonsky, Lansford, was terminated as a part time nurse's aide.

The commissioners noted one retirement and six resignations as follows:

Terry Noll, Pine Grove, retired as a detective in the district attorney's office; Donna Higgins, North Manheim Township, a secretary in the Domestic Relations Department; Attorney Sean Triano, Schuylkill Haven, as law clerk for President Judge William E. Baldwin; Meagan Hayes, Branch Township, as clerk in treasurer's office; Cynthia Corson, Barnesville, and Kaylei Bettinger, Auburn, full time nurses aides at Rest Haven Home and Amber Krise, Ashland, as part time nurse's aide at Res Haven Home.

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