Congratulations to Summit County Executive Russ Pry and his administration for winning re-election by a landslide.
Now maybe you guys can get serious about keeping an eye on our tax dollars without worrying about the political repercussions.
How else to explain the astonishing case of Keely Jones?
As the Beacon Journal’s Rick Armon reported the other day, Jones, an employee in the county welfare department, was caught blatantly shirking her duties.
And she still has her job.
No, the previous sentence does not contain a typographical error. This woman still has her job.
In a rational world, that would be impossible.
Jones, a caseworker in the Department of Job and Family Services, helps determine who qualifies for benefits and who doesn’t. According to her personnel file, her work history includes the following:
• In January 2008, she was suspended for 10 days after a supervisor discovered 5,153 documents in her work area that she hadn’t bothered to process.
• In June 2008 — a mere six months after somehow getting off the hook for the previous offense — supervisors discovered a bunch more unprocessed documents. This time she was suspended for 20 days.
• In August 2012 — another deja vu. A supervisor found a box under her desk stuffed with unprocessed documents from 2009 to 2011. Her penalty this time was a 30-day suspension.
If she commits a fourth offense, perhaps the county will do something really drastic, such as sending her to time out.
The worst part about this is that the documents in question were far from trivial. “Trivial” is what we would label another glitch in her resume: using the county’s copier for her own purposes.
No, in this case, her screw-ups had a direct effect on people’s lives, because the paperwork she blew off included applications for benefits and the release of medical information.
Apparently Jones couldn’t be bothered to do that kind of work on company time.
Imagine how many people on welfare would dearly love to get a job like hers, which pays $20.50 an hour and includes benefits and security — “security” being an obvious understatement.
Exactly what would Keely Jones have had to do to get fired? Make door-to-door visits to the homes of applicants and flip them the bird?
When someone fails to get the benefits he or she qualifies for, the effect often is felt not only by that person but also by an entire family.
And the folks applying for welfare generally are not well positioned to fight the system. They don’t have the influence to pick up the phone and call an acquaintance in a high place and right an obvious wrong. So they sit and wait. And wait. In some cases, apparently, for years — simply because Jones didn’t do her job.
On the flip side, some families actually benefitted from her sloth, collecting money they weren’t entitled to.
Interesting side note: Jones is the president of her union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2696. She was elected a year ago — after her two previous suspensions.
Call me picky, but if I were in that union, I’m pretty sure I would be looking for someone else to represent me.
Jones, 53, did not respond to an offer to comment that was left on her home phone.
Meanwhile, the county has stonewalled completely, saying this is a “personnel matter” that can’t be discussed publicly. Pry’s office won’t even say how many cases were affected or whether the county will try to get back money that shouldn’t have been paid out.
Pry has made plenty of good moves since taking over in 2007, such as knocking down the county’s general-fund spending by $15 million. That’s why he captured almost two of every three votes cast Tuesday. But he certainly whiffed on this one.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.