Lehigh Valley

Northampton County Controller calls staff training cost increases 'staggering'

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County Controller Stephen Barron Jr. Thursday night criticized what he called a "staggering" increase in staff development training costs, but Northampton County Council member Mathew Benol said controller's report was "nothing more than a political football."

"I think it's a knee-jerk thing done to make our county executive (John Brown) look bad, and I'm getting tired of it," Benol said. "I'm tired of our controller using that position as a political pulpit."

Barron, speaking outside council chambers, defended his report and criticized Benol.

"What Benol is saying is a bunch of crap," Barron said.

Barron's criticisms were aimed at Amy Trapp, the county's new human resources director. Trapp, who was in a recent car accident, was not at Thursday night's council meeting.

According to Barron's report to council, staff development and training costs in that department jumped from $5,749 to $56,758, an increase of 987 percent, Barron noted.

Barron specifically noted two trips to conferences, one to Las Vegas for a NeoGov User Conference, the other in New Orleans for a Workers Compensation Conference.

County Executive John Brown defended the spending and criticized Barron for taking the figures out of context.

Brown said the county had been under spending on training its employees for years and was trying to put a foundation in place for all levels of managers and supervisors so they can put training platforms in place.

Barron recommended council take a closer look at such spending in the future. Council Member Hayden Phillips said he intended to do just that.

In other action, former Council Member Scott Parsons informed council that a Friends of Gracedale Foundation, a 501 (3) (c), had been set up for the  non-profit organization, had been established for the county's nursing home.

The foundation is a tax-exempt charity that can accept tax- deductible donations and applying for grants. Parsons said it took about three years to set up the foundation, which received $1,000 in its first donation.

"Hopefully it will turn into something big," Parsons said, referring to the foundation. He said the foundation's goal is simple: help Gracedale.

In another matter involving Gracedale, council approved a $1.9 million contract with Wind Gap Electric for stand-by generators at the nursing home.

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