The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 25, 2013

Keep personel feelings out of personnel decisions

Daily Item

---- — The decision to relieve Sunbury city councilman Joe Bartello has left many unanswered questions.

What we know for sure is that two code officers filed grievances against Bartello for a variety of offenses last month. Mayor Dave Persing ordered an investigation, which was conducted over the course of two weeks by Councilman Kevin Troup. Monday night, Troup would not reveal the results, but Persing asked for a resolution to be passed temporarily stripping Bartello from his duties in dealing with code office staff.

Bartello is still the department head and could return to the post if any legal issues are resolved.

We can live with the fact that the investigation was handled internally. It is a cheaper option than bringing in someone else to do it. The same man who led the investigation is now in charge of the employees in the code office.

Sounds odd.

That is the nature of small-town government, where officials often wear more than one hat and entanglements are unavoidable. Still, they need to be managed effectively to avoid the appearance of malfeasance.

Bartello has vowed to keep doing his job even though he is banned from having any interactions in the office.

The vote to sideline Bartello on Monday night was done in public. But Bartello, who is running as a write-in candidate against Persing for Sunbury mayor in the fall, is arguing the city violated the Sunshine Law because it held an executive session earlier in the day. Personnel matters are routinely handled in private at all levels of government.

Whether or not political interests have anything to do with any of this remains to be seen, but right now it looks like both sides have work to do.

If the officers are not doing their job according to their required duties, is that not the job of a supervisory council member to tell them to get to work? If Bartello is telling the code officers to do something and they refuse because of ties to the mayor, or because it has dubious justification, then that is a much larger issue.

If Bartello is creating a hostile work environment, as is argued in the grievances against him, and the investigation found legitimate concerns, is that not the time to get the solicitor involved?

From the outside looking in it seems as if too many personal feelings have had a say in personnel matters.