To the editor:
At two recent public meetings (the Mifflin County Commissioners meeting and the Mifflin County Salary Board meeting), questions were raised in the public comment period regarding an additional salary payment ($5,625) made to Children and Youth Director Mackenzie Seiler in 2012.
So that all pertinent and complete information can be shared with all county residents, the following is a description of the process which led to the extra salary payment.
Early in 2012, Ms. Seiler had two open positions in her department: An in-home supervisor position, and an assistant administrator position. The in-home supervisor position became vacant after the supervisor transferred to a provider who works with Children and Youth. The assistant administrator position was a new position approved by the state; however delays in the PA Civil Service testing process prohibited the position from being filled until 2013. When the agency pulled the PA Civil Service list to fill the supervisor position, there was no candidate on the list with adequate experience to fill the position. Since the agency must hire through the Civil Service process, the agency continued to pursue filling the position over the next few months, finally finding a candidate with sufficient experience from a neighboring CYS agency, who was then hired to fill the vacancy.
Ms. Seiler covered the in-home supervisor position from Jan. 1 through June 24, 2012. In reality, Ms. Seiler covered the in-home supervisor position for two months longer than that, as the new hire had to complete the necessary training for the position. Ms. Seiler covered the assistant administrator position for all of 2012 until Civil Service reopened the test for this position and it could be filled in 2013.
Since the duties of the assistant administrator position involved covering supervisor positions during periods of absence, Ms. Seiler had to step in and perform those duties. Anyone familiar with the supervisory posts knows that those positions are extremely paperwork intensive and time intensive a lot of documentation needs to be completed and maintained as well as frequent meetings with caseworker staff to ensure cases are progressing. These added duties forced Ms. Seiler to perform work on evenings and weekends over eight full months to keep up with her administrative duties while also fulfilling the supervisory duties.
Typically, when there is a vacation to cover or a busy week that results in extra hours, salaried employees like Ms. Seiler are asked to "grin and bear it" and not expect additional compensation. This situation, however, was not typical, as the time period in question was not days or weeks, but many months in duration. It was an extreme strain to Ms. Seiler to take on these duties for such a length of time. There is plenty of work to justify these as full time positions to both the Board of Commissioners as well as to the state, and it would have been a strain on anyone for such a length of time in addition to holding the position of administrator. That is why consideration was given for this circumstance. It was far from typical.
Prior to approving the payment to Ms. Seiler, the Board of Commissioners investigated the matter. The initial question was, "Has the County ever approved a payment of this type before?" The answer to that question was "yes." In 2005, when the county's previous Children & Youth administrator covered the intake supervisor position for approximately five months, that person was paid an additional $5,000. This payment was executed administratively by the commissioners and did not go through a Salary Board meeting. It is also believed that there were other occurrences in the past as well, but definitive proof of one occurrence was verified.
Not satisfied with just an example of "past practice," the Board sought the opinion of County Solicitor Pat Gardner on the matter. Ms. Gardner indicated that her research showed that the Board of Commissioners could execute a payment in this instance because the extra duties performed arose from an approved, budgeted position.
At this point in time, the extra payment was still not made. The Board then sought the guidance of its statewide organization, CCAP. A CCAP official agreed that the compensation provided to Ms. Seiler was for work performed from an established position with an assigned salary.
The CCAP official noted that the focus of the Salary Board is not the individual, the focus is the position. The Salary Board had already created each position and established a salary range, so their work was done. Subsequent to that, it is immaterial whether you pay two individuals to perform the work, or (as in this case with a vacancy) pay one person who is doing their primary job plus the material part of the second job. Bottom line, as long as they are doing the same character of work and the total amount allocable to each position is not exceeded, there is no need for additional Salary Board action.
At the time Ms. Seiler was performing the extra duties of the two positions, the budgeted annual salaries for those posts were as follows: Assistant administrator position: $42,500; In-home supervisor position: $40,379.
The total annual salary for the two positions combined stood at $82,879 at that time. Also, please consider this amount does not cover the added costs of benefits for these positions. Thus, if new employees had been in these positions during this time period, the cost to the county would have been significantly higher.
It is important to underscore the fact that both of the above referenced positions were vacant from Jan. 1 through June 24, 2012. Thus, the cost savings for the time period was about $35,814.50 in salary alone. As you can clearly see, Ms. Seiler's performance of the additional duties ultimately saved Mifflin County and the Commonwealth a very significant amount of money.
Since the Commonwealth operates on an 80 percent/20 percent reimbursement basis for Children & Youth expenses, the state's share of the $5,625 payment to Ms. Seiler was $4,500, and the county's portion computed to $1,125.
So, in conclusion, if you hear people remarking about a "special extra payment" being made to Mackenzie Seiler in 2012, you now have what the late great Paul Harvey would gleefully say is, "the rest of the story!"
As stated previously, we commissioners support Mifflin County Children and Youth personnel in their pursuit of improving services to families while ensuring the safety of all children that live in our county.
Mifflin County Commissioners
Mark A. Sunderland
Otis E. Riden, Jr.
Kevin P. Kodish