Prison Staff’s Request for Overtime Denied

Participants in Tuesday’s meeting of the Wyoming County Prison Board included (seated from left) commissioners Judy Mead and Tom Henry, chief clerk Bill Gaylord, sheriff Ned Sherman, district attorney Jeff Mitchell, warden Ken Repsher, and president judge Russell Shurtleff.

Story and photos by Rick Hiduk

(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)

Commissioner Tom Henry related on Tuesday that employees of the Wyoming County Correctional Facility in Tunkhannock who worked this past weekend during a winter storm are not eligible for overtime pay. Such might have been the case if Wyoming County had signed on to a state of emergency issued by Gov. Tom Wolf, but Wyoming County did not declare a state of emergency.

In recent years, such declarations from Harrisburg have been more commonplace, but the decision is left to officials in each county whether or not to “sign on.” Doing so, commissioner Judy Mead explained, allows for the county to tap resources for snow and ice removal or flood recovery, depending on the situation, without putting out for bids. It can also help the county in applying for disaster relief after an event.

We didn’t even have to open the EOC (emergency operations center),” Henry remarked during the monthly prison board meeting held on Jan. 22. A state of emergency has been in effect for more than a year to address the opioid epidemic, Henry continued, “and I’m not paying people three times their salary for that.”

A previous attempt by corrections facility employees to collect overtime pay due to a governor-issued state of emergency resulted in a grievance that will come up in court soon. Nobody was mandated to work this past weekend, Henry asserted. “They can file a grievance again if they want to,” he stated.

Warden Ken Repsher reported that prison population was down slightly with 4 more releases than intakes. There are currently 70 inmates in the system, including 61 males and nine females.

Though the commissioners approved the promotion of part-time corrections officer Dakota Prevost to full-time, there are still two full-time and several part-time positions open at the prison, Repsher noted. “That effects full-time corrections officers when they need to take time off,” he said.

On the topic of hiring, firings and resignations, Henry asked Mead to approve a worksheet that administrative assistants in the commissioners office had drafted. Henry is authorized by the Prison Board to approve staff changes in between monthly meetings and always seeks approval from fellow commissioners after the fact, but he wanted the template to better keep track of incoming and outgoing staff and circumstances associated with the changes.

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