Hiring powers, county jail issues, mixed bag

Bill Whelan and Sam Fiocchi are debating a proposed change in county hiring procedures.

The freeholders at their work session this week continued their discussion over a resolution changing how the county, sheriff’s department and county library take on new hires.

The resolution had been tabled last month due to concerns from Freeholder Bill Whelan about a single freeholder — the personnel committee chair — wielding veto power over the other members of the board.

I can see both sides of the argument on this one. Any time you talk of change, somebody is going to balk.  Is this a power play – a way to ensure that Republicans have say over hiring in the county even if they lose the majority, and the new Director is now a Democrat?

Whelan is arguing that the Director should have veto power over new hires, Fiocchi says he wants to lessen the work load on the Director. Of course, Whelan is looking to the future when the Democrats will assuredly win back control of the freeholder board. After all, Cumberland is a Democrat county, and Republicans historically seem unable to maintain a majority for more than a year every decade or so.

So on the one hand, this is smart of Sam to at least introduce a method that the Republicans will have some sort of say in county government – as the Cumberland Democrats despite their rhetoric have never, ever played nicely in a bipartisan fashion.  What would really be refreshing, and I understand this is a pipe dream, but in a perfect world, hiring of county employees would be totally removed from partisan politics. Nobody would get hired simply because they were a tireless worker for the party, albeit devoid of any experience or qualification for the job. In fact, I would like to see a law that party loyalists are forbidden from being hired for a public job in their own county. if you want to stump for your party, then get a REAL job.

In another article, the Bridgeton Chamber of Commerce held an Economic Panel review of 2011.

Fiocchi remarked that “there’s not a lot of fat left on the bone, but we’re still trying to make county government more efficient” with the guidance of bipartisan transition teams reviewing public safety, insurance, legal and library finances. He said the county is in the process of completing an efficiency study of its jail, especially its “inordinate amount of overtime,” and he noted that the sale of the Cumberland Manor will put money in the budget surplus while reducing losses.

Ah, the county jail. Speaking of people hired for their political activism…

First of all, I would like to begin by saying that Warden Balicki has made a lot of changes at the jail since taking over, many of them positive. Under Balicki, the jail qualified for $250,000 in federal money for prisoner re-entry programs. Now, I cannot attest to the efficiency of the programs in Cumberland County. However, in order to reduce recidivism, these sorts of programs are necessary. When a person that has been incarcerated for several years is released, if they do not have the ability to filter into the mainstream of society, they will be back in the Graybar Hotel rather quickly.

Balicki has also, much to the chagrin of many area law enforcement agencies, refused to house prisoners on out-out-county warrants. I agree with him 100% that Cumberland County taxpayers should not be bearing the burden of housing other county’s problems.

He has substantially reduced the jail population, and that is a good thing (as long as violent offenders are not walking the streets). Which leads us to… “inordinate amount of overtime”. With a reduced population, new rules regulating when prisoners are to be admitted, etc., etc., how do we account for this apparent abuse of overtime? Is it a scheduling issue? Are CO’s taking too much unscheduled time off?  Maybe too many are waiting for their court date for (choose one or more)

  1. smuggling cocaine to prisoners.
  2. smuggling marijuana to prisoners.
  3. smuggling cellphones to prisoners.
  4. shooting their lover in a quarrel.

Okay, I think I have gotten myself into enough trouble for one day! I am looking forward to some lively comments.

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One Response to Hiring powers, county jail issues, mixed bag

  1. Retired says:

    All the above.

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