Senior services snafu found

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – David Hacker, director of Belmont County Senior Services, and Lisa Fijalkowski, interim director of the Department of Job and Family Services, brought an unexpected issue before the commissioners during their Wednesday meeting.

Hacker said it has been discovered that two individuals have been on the DJFS payroll structure but were never listed in the costs for Senior Services. However, they were providing transportation services to seniors.

Hacker said they are now and will remain employed with Senior Services and provide services to seniors under the levy, as they had been during most of their time.

Fijalkowski said they were on the DJFS public assistance payroll with the goal of saving levy dollars. However, the majority of their time was spent in Senior Services non-Medicaid services. The use of these two led to a cost savings of $80,000, since they were able to use the DJFS structure.

“We were able to take advantage of using those two employees as public assistance employees on our system’s payroll. Saving the levy dollars, we paid funding for their salaries and benefits under JFS,” she said, adding that when they drove a Medicaid client they were able to draw down additional funding.

Hacker noted that the question arose about whether they should be re-hired under the Senior Services union. Since they were DJFS employees, they were classified as vehicle operators. Under Senior Services, they are classified as drivers.

Commissioner Ginny Favede said the two employees were not represented on any of the lists the commissioners were given during the layoffs. She and Commissioner Charles R. Probst, Jr. raised the issue of whether they should have been laid off.

Fijalkowski said they were technically Senior Services employees although they were on DJFS payroll. She said she did not believe the union was aware of them. Hacker said while today they are part of the Senior Services Union, during the layoffs they would have been classified as Senior Services Union members compensated with public assistance dollars.

Hacker said the compensation and benefits of the drivers would now be compensated through levy funds.

Favede voiced the concern that two case managers might have been laid off rather than the unlisted employees.

Commissioner Matt Coffland said this practice as a possible means of saving money in transportation costs was among the options discussed when Senior Services were first combined with DJFS. Hacker said the other savings came through the use of EMS providers for transportation.

Favede asked where money drawn down from Medicaid hits was deposited. Fijalkowski said it would have been deposited with DJFS.

“You didn’t lay them off and we have case workers that are laid off that could be helping the destitute people of this county, so we can capitalize and make money off of them?”

Coffland said their original paycheck came from DJFS. When they transported people, the money was refunded back to DJFS.

“What they were doing was providing an additional service to Senior Services to help them out,” he said.

Fijalkowski said the actual cost to the levy was $115,106.81. The money they were able to draw in was $193,927.08, for the total of $80,000. Hacker said the $80,000 savings existed because every portion of their salaries and benefits were compensated by public assistance dollars. Hacker said the bulk of their time was spent transporting non-Medicaid eligible seniors. The program was for Medicaid-eligible seniors.

Probst inquired if this would mean an audit finding or other repercussions for the county. Hacker said that was not known at the time.

Favede inquired if two case workers could be re-hired or receive back wages. She speculated that the county might face a union grievance.

Fijalkowski gave the opinion that the two employees should have been listed on the organizational chart. She speculated that they might not have been directly laid off, but would likely have been bumped by someone with seniority.

The question of whether two laid off DJFS people could be rehired will be explored.

Coffland said they were employed as transportation for Senior Services and were reimbursed through Medicaid to perform those duties and relieving the Senior Services drivers.

“It was kind of a win-win for us on that situation because we were being reimbursed,” he said, adding that this could not continue since the changeover because the service was already provided through levy money.

Commissioners requested all financial information from DJFS for analysis. They will also hear a report from the DJFS fiscal officer.

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