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At the July 9 Susquehanna County Commissioners meeting I asked commissioner Marcho, who chairs the board, why Erik Knifer, a county employee who was on suspension and has since been fired, was still receiving pay. Commissioner Marcho said that it was a union contract requirement.
Article 13 of the union contract concerns discipline, suspension and discharges. It's a small article, just four short sections. Section One says the county needs 'just cause' to suspend. Sect. 2, the county must notify the union in writing and the union has the right to grieve the action. Sect. 3 explains that Article 13 doesn't apply during the first six months of employment. And finally, Sect. 4 explains an employee's right to union representation.
That's it, nothing about suspend with pay or without pay.
I spoke with commissioner Marcho on the afternoon of July 22, the day before the next commissioners meeting. When I mentioned to him that nothing in Art. 13 references anything about pay or w/o pay, he said he was going by what labor attorney, Dick Goldberg, had recommended what the commissioners should do in this case. He said he'd check on it.
The next day, just before the start of the scheduled meeting, commissioner Marcho told me that the labor attorney informed him that Knifer had to be paid while on suspension because the county did not have 'just cause' to suspend him.
This letter is not meant to defend or prosecute any county employee. My concern is, paying employees while they're suspended. If you don't have 'just cause', don't suspend! If you suspend, don't pay! And if an employee, suspended or discharged, prevails on appeal, THEN consider back pay. Suspension with pay for disciplinary reasons makes no 'cents'!
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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