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Officials will not serve as casual employees

Published February 10. 2010 05:00PM

Elected supervisors will not serve as casual employees in Lower Towamensing Township after a motion in the affirmative was rebutted.

Supervisor Jesse Mendez on Tuesday made the motion to have elected supervisors employed as casual employees to perform work on the roads when necessary or needed strictly on a call-out basis at the discretion of the township foreman.

However, the motion by Mendez died due to the lack of a second after Supervisor Glen Hahn and supervisors Chairman Ronald Walbert voted against it.

Prior to the action, Hahn said he would not make such a motion, while Walbert said he wouldn't either, nor would he second it, if one were to be made.

The issue came under scrutiny from resident Jay Mullikin, who said he didn't believe that elected supervisors should be employed as casual employees.

Mullikin asked if that meant all supervisors, to which Hahn replied that it did.

At that, Mullikin specifically took Mendez to task over a prior incident in which both he and Hahn were cited by the state Ethics Commission.

In Sept. 2008, the commission determined that Hahn and Mendez illegally paid themselves as assistant secretary, even though they were never appointed to the position, nor approved to receive compensation for the position.

Mendez offered a response to Mullikin's assertion.

"I paid my time," Mendez said. "I'm cleared."

Regardless, Mullikin said he didn't believe Mendez should be allowed to serve in that capacity.

Walbert said he shared the same belief.

"I don't think elected supervisors should be casual employees," Walbert said.

Hahn said he disagreed with that opinion.

"I think elected supervisors should be allowed to help," Hahn said. "When you're accused of something and you don't have the money; if you knew behind the scenes who was involved, you'd be talking different."

Mendez said that in his case, there were dates and facts that didn't jive.

"Some of my dates didn't match what they had," Mendez said. "I feel I paid my time, rather than go through a lengthy hearing."

Resident Herman Bollinger said Hahn was at fault, to which Hahn offered a response.

"When I was working on the road, [former township secretary] Dorothy [Achey] called me and I came and sat in the office," Hahn said.

Walbert said that in their defense, being a casual employee while simultaneously being an elected supervisor makes it tough to avoid pitfalls.

"If you want to go and follow the law, if you're an elected supervisor, it's almost impossible not to cross the line," Walbert said.

Still, Mullikin told Mendez he felt he shouldn't be allowed to serve in that role.

"I can appreciate what you're saying, but what's out there for the public .... ". "What you did was blatant, and I don't think you should be allowed to be an [casual] employee."

The commission's Aug. 5, 2008 ruling determined both Hahn and Mendez illegally paid themselves $6,600 for doing the work they were already compensated for as supervisors, and for doing jobs for which they weren't appointed.

In his defense, Hahn said at that time that he only acted in the same manner as previous supervisors did when they filled in for the secretary, as there were no job descriptions at that time.

In addition, Mendez - who at that time also worked part time as a collection driver for Carbon County Solid Waste Management - paid himself for hours he claimed to have worked for the township while he was being compensated at the same time as an employee of the county, the commission found.

Mendez was employed at that time as township roadmaster, and Hahn as a member of the road crew when they illegally took the money, the commission found. Lower Towamensing supervisors are paid a yearly salary of $1,875.

Both Hahn and Mendez - who formally agreed to the commission's findings - reached settlements in which they will reimburse the township.

Hahn, who received a private gain of $4,277.50, will pay $3,581.50 in installments of $197.60 a month for 12 years. Mendez - who in 2007 lost his bid for reelection as a township supervisor - will pay $2,372.25 in installments of $198.97 a month for 18 months.

The investigation spanned from 2001-07.

Last year, all three supervisors - Walbert, Hahn, and then-Supervisor Gerry Madden - declined to serve as casual employees.

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