10 lose jobs at Pa. 911 center, reportedly for New Year's rum toast at work
Officials say there will be mandatory overtime and ramping up of recruit training after 10 employees left following an incident involving alcoholic egg nog
The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.
LEHIGH COUNTY, Pa. — Ten employees at the Lehigh County emergency radio dispatch center lost their jobs this week due to “violations of longstanding county policy,” according to the county’s director of general services.
Three supervisors were fired on Tuesday and seven operators resigned Wednesday, according to Director of General Services Rick Molchany.
“The significance of the violations was such that we needed to take action as quickly as possible,” he said.
WFMZ Channel 69 reports that the employees lost their jobs because they participated in a midnight toast at the 911 center on New Year’s Eve with egg nog spiked with rum.
Molchany declined to offer specific reasons for the terminations and resignations. He said they’re personnel matters. The employees have the opportunity to appeal the terminations, he said.
The policy violations come at a time when the 911 center is already grappling with staff turnover due to a merger between the Allentown and Lehigh County 911 centers.
Molchany said his center is budgeted for 53 operators and 10 supervisors. He’s addressing the staffing shortfall by mandating overtime, offering rewards to employees and ramping up training for new recruits.
Several employees are nearing pre-employee testing and the county plans to hire an outside agency to get prospective employees certified more quickly than usual, he said.
Back in 2015, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a law that sunset funding for the state’s only two standalone 911 communication centers in Allentown and Bethlehem as a push to regionalization. After a study and talk of a Lehigh Valley-wide center, it was decided that Bethlehem would merge with Northampton County, including the Lehigh County section of the city, while Allentown would consolidated with Lehigh County’s 911 center. The mergers became official in June.
Molchany said several of the Allentown 911 center employees elected to find jobs elsewhere rather than be retrained on a new system in Lehigh County. It took time to replenish the ranks, which are again depleted after the policy violations.
He admits he’s concerned with staff morale but said he’s doing the best he can to get staff levels back up and execute the merger successfully.
©2020 The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.)