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Court hears Lycoming County Commissioners, controller arguments

The battle between Lycoming County commissioners and an elected official whose employees they voted to transfer from her office earlier this month went to court Wednesday to hear arguments.

Commissioners are attempting to hold County Controller Krista Rogers in contempt for not transferring functions to the budget and finance office as ordered.

Rogers has contended commissioners illegally directed such action and has accused them of engaging in a power grab.

Attorney J. Michael Wiley in opening arguments told the court that county code does not prevent commissioners from moving employees from one department to another.

“The Controller still has the employees she needs for her office’s functions,” he added.

In fact, he argued, the move was made after failed attempts to correct problems in her office.

Defense attorney Mark Flaherty, argued that nowhere in the county code does it allow for commissioners to unilaterally transfer employees from an elected official’s department.

Commissioner Tony Mussare was among those testifying in the hearing held in Lycoming County Court.

He noted that two years ago four employees were transferred to her department.

He claimed she began making threats after commissioners discussed with her about moving the employees back.

He referred to an email in which Rogers said the county would sustain a financial meltdown if that occurred.

Defense attorney Mike Smith asked Mussare if such language actually constituted a threat.

“Isn’t she just advising you of potential ramifications?” he asked.

“I’m saying that is a threat,” Mussare said.

He said the mistakes made in Rogers’ office gave them no choice but to vote to transfer employees from her office to the Budget and Finance office where they could receive proper training.

Mussare was asked if he felt commissioners have the authority to transfer the employees.

“Yes,” he said. “I believe we had the right to do so.”

Also testifying was Commissioner Scott Metzger who explained the reason for the transfers.

Fiscal functions out of the Controller’s office, he said, were not being carried out and mistakes were made.

“We shouldn’t be here today,” he said. “It’s her way or no way.”

Metzger said Rogers was apprised on April 9 that the commissioners were considering the transfers.

He said at the time she acknowledged mistakes having been made and pleaded with them not to go through with such action.

“We told her we tried to work with her,” he said. “This is not a power grab.”

Metzger was asked by the defense, “Where’s the crisis?”

He noted the 39 errors committed with payroll in 2019.

Brandy Clemons testified her department corrected many mistakes made by the Controller’s office while she served as deputy director of Fiscal Services.

She blamed the errors in part to inexperienced employees who didn’t have the knowledge to catch mistakes.

Clemons, who has since been promoted to director of Budget and Finance, said it was not her department’s job to correct mistakes.

The hearing is to continue on a date to be determined before Potter County Senior Judge John Leete.

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