A Tuesday vote reorganized the Lycoming County Controller’s office, moving four of its employees under the supervision of the county’s budget and finance office.
The vote drew the ire of Controller Krista Rogers who called the move illegal saying, “I do not acknowledge these actions you have taken today… My employees work for me. They will not be moving.”
The controversial vote was a response to what the commissioners called years of “systemic fiscal process errors” and turnover in the controller’s department and a lack of training for its employees.
“We need to correct this,” said Commissioner Scott Metzger. “This is not blocking you from anything… but we are ultimately responsible for the finances of this county.”
Rogers agreed that more training is needed for her employees, but stressed that the commissioners are not able to remove them from her department.
“My office is not the problem” Rogers said. “I cannot be stripped of my powers and be expected to fix problems.” She claimed there were leadership issues with the county commissioners and this move is an effort by them to “rebuild their power base while jeopardizing the county’s financial well-being.”
But the commissioners stressed during the Tuesday meeting that they don’t see this as a “power grab,” and hope that Rogers will work with them to fix the issues.
Moving the four employees under the supervision of the fiscal office will ensure they are trained properly, according to Commissioner Tony Mussare, adding that he hopes they will be able to move back once they have been trained.
Roger’s claim of the illegality of the reorganization comes from questioning the county Salary Board’s ability to move employees between departments and the ability of the board of commissioners to move employees from another elected officials department.
Rogers noted that 1620 of the PA County Code which states that the “commissioners have discretion to collectively bargain for the county officers. The exercise of such responsibilities by the county commissioners shall in no way affect the hiring, discharging and supervising rights and obligations with respect to such employees as may be vested in the judges or other county officers.”
The county controller is an elected position in each county who administers the fiscal affairs of the county through receiving and distributing funds. The controller is also able to act as an independent auditor of the county.
“By this move the commissioners are risking their ability to pay bills and payroll, and file a financial report,” Rogers said in a press release. “They are eliminating the controller’s office as the lawful check and balance of county expenditures.”
Rogers made it clear that she would not accept the commissioners’ vote, a decision that could lead to legal action in the future.
Commissioner Tony Mussare added that the PA county code offers little option for officials if they feel the controller’s office is not functioning properly.
Mussare added that the county’s and controller’s solicitors will meet to discuss the legal issues and determine a path forward, but he added that the county will not shy away from legal action.