A email string provided to The Daily Item from Northumerland County Commissioner Rick Shoch regarding his communications with county workers and fellow commissioners, accompanying a story on Page A4 of Wednesday’s edition of The Daily Item headlined “No prayer of Bridy receiving Shoch emails”:
From: Steffen, Gary
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2012 3:07 PM
Cc: Clausi, Vinny; Bridy, Stephen; Shoch, Richard
Subject: to all county employees
To all Department Heads and employees:
In the past several weeks, Department Heads and other county employees have been summoned to the Commissioners Office to speak to a Commissioner. To date, a number of those employees have expressed concerns that they have felt uncomfortable being placed in that position and subsequently found their names or titles displayed in news articles.
Today, Chairman Clausi and Commissioner Bridy have mandated that to protect the integrity of employees, employees have the right to have two Commissioners present when they feel uneasy being questioned or interviewed by a Commissioner. Additionally, if any employee finds themselves being placed into a situation that they are not completely comfortable with, please contact the Chief Clerk immediately. Thank you.
From: Shoch, Richard
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2012 12:35 PM
To: Steffen, Gary; z_everyone
Cc: Clausi, Vinny; Bridy, Stephen
Subject: RE: to all county employees
To all Department Heads and Employees:
I apologize that I was not able to address the below email until now. I was away on vacation last week in under circumstances that made it difficult to access emails, etc. I guess it’s true what they say about “when the cat’s away…”
I have already met with and discussed this matter with several department heads and other employees, including some of those who were mentioned specifically in some of the recent newspaper articles. Amazingly, none of them indicated they needed a “plus 1” present in order to feel comfortable meeting with me, and I get the impression from the conversations I’ve had that most of you recognize these latest theatrics for exactly what they are. In fact, if you would refer back to my “Bread and Circuses” op-ed piece from a few months ago, you will see that I devoted several paragraphs to the predictable tactic of creating the illusion that the person with an opposing viewpoint lacks credibility and is actually the “enemy” of the people, or in the case the employees.
As any of you who have met with me know, I have never “summoned” anyone to my office and given them an “ultimatum”, as was suggested in the press. And, as any employee who has met with me can tell you, the only thing I have ever asked of anyone is that they be honest with me. If the environment in Northumberland County government is such that asking employees to be honest with me makes them feel uncomfortable, then I would suggest to you that the forces that are creating a poor environment in this county lie somewhere other than with me.
As for the statements from the specific employees involved with the DCED grant issue, from the conversations I’ve had with some of them, their reaction appears to have been generated by: (1) an isolated, but important, mischaracterization of one of my statements that appeared in the Shamokin News Item; and (2) the influence of my fellow commissioners, for reasons that I think are obvious to everyone at this point. The statement that appeared in the News Item to the affect that the “..other funds could not be accounted for..” was inaccurate and never said by me. What I did state is what DCED representatives stated to me. That is, that at this point they had identified documentation issues with the administration of the grant, and they do not know how much money the county may be required to repay to DCED. Please know that, since becoming aware of this issue, I have been working with DCED in the hopes of ensuring that no funds will need to be repaid.
I was particularly disappointed to see Ms. Jeremiah’s claim that I have not been supportive of her since, as she well knows, we are only several weeks removed from an incident in which I stood up for her against both of the other two Commissioners when I thought she was being treated unfairly regarding an issue. Be that as it may, after reading that some of these employees felt compelled to tender their resignations, I certainly hope that, if they ever did in fact consider this, Mr. Stavinsky would set those thoughts aside and continue his dedicated service to the county.
I will leave you with this closing thought. I would encourage all of the county’s employees to think back over the last several years, and to note in the years to come, which of the Commissioners has in fact ever “summoned” you or a co-worker to their office and made threats, issued ultimatums, or made you feel afraid that you could loose your job if you didn’t comply with a demand. I would encourage all of you to talk to your families and as many of your friends as you can about that, and encourage them to go to the polls in three years and cast votes that can change that environment in the future.
Richard J. Shoch