At their meeting on November 17, 2022, County Council introduced the following Ordinance: AN ORDINANCE REGARDING AN EMPLOYEE HEALTH CENTER FUNDED BY SPENDING FROM THE 2023 PROPOSED AND ADOPTED BUDGET.
The following is a point-by-point rebuttal by the Administration to the proposed actions outlined in the Ordinance.
WHEREAS, Northampton County Council has been advised by the Administration of Northampton County (Administration) of the intent to institute, operate, and maintain an Employee Health Center; and
· The idea and concept of an Employee Health Center was pitched to Council on August 17, 2022 at the Finance Committee meeting.
· Integrity Health operates several health centers in New Jersey and recently expanded into Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.
WHEREAS, Northampton County Council has not been advised as to the startup costs for this Employee Health Center, liability issues, operational costs, return on investment, and detailed projected cost savings to Northampton County, if any; and
· Council was provided with additional details and answers to all their questions shortly after their meeting on August 17, 2022.
· On October 19, 2022, Council was able to further question and vet Integrity Health Care about their services and their proven model.
WHEREAS, The Administration has advised that funding for this Employee Health Center is present within the 2023 proposed Fiscal Budget; and
· There are funds in the budget designated to cover the costs of Employee Healthcare for 2023. While this ‘trust fund’ is for those costs, we believe that the expenses and cost savings can be covered by the money we have requested in the 2023 Budget.
WHEREAS, Pursuant to the Northampton County Administrative Code, Section 13.15 et al., any contract exceeding $100,000 requires the review and approval of Northampton County Council, and no contract has been produced; and
· After the October 19, 2022 Finance Committee meeting a resolution was presented to County Council to allow the County to pursue the Employee Health Center in concept and then present a contract to Council for approval once all the details were resolved.
· Council does have the power to approve, and we would seek Council’s approval for any contract with Integrity Healthcare, but Council was asked to consider the concept of the center via resolution at their October 20, 2022 General Meeting and did not present the resolution as an agenda item.
WHEREAS, Pursuant to the Code Section 13.07, competitive bidding is required, but was not entailed, nor have exceptions been stated in detail as required in Section 13.10, in the proposal forwarded by the Administration; and
· Competitive bidding is not “required” by Administrative Code Section 13.07; rather, Section 13.07 states that procurement of County goods and services over $25,000 shall be made by one of the five methods outlined under Section 13.07(a): competitive sealed bidding, competitive negotiations, noncompetitive negotiations, emergency procurement, and cooperative purchasing.
· Section1 13.10 vests the County Executive or his designee with the authority to determine whether Noncompetitive Negotiation is required and that prior to the award of the contract an Executive Order is issued stating the reason for using Noncompetitive Negotiation.
· Integrity offers a unique concept for an exclusive employee health center which we presented to Council and the public on at least three occasions.
· While there are two major health networks in the Lehigh Valley which may provide similar services, County Administration wanted to avoid branding that might prevent or dissuade employees from using the health center.
· The County Administration and entities associated with the County approves bonds and financial instruments for those local hospital networks and it was easiest to avoid favoritism by going with an entity that is stand alone and provides a la carte services unique to our employees.
WHEREAS, Pursuant to the Code Section 13.14.c, the purchase and/or leasing of any real estate for any Employee Health Center requires review and approval by Northampton County Council, which has not been forthcoming; and
· Leases and negotiations are exclusively the prevue of the County Executive with Council approval pursuant to the Home Rule Charter.
· At each meeting the Administration has been clear that they did not want to talk about the location in public to protect the County’s negotiating position (therefore protecting taxpayer money). Council can ask the Administration individually or in an executive session for those details, but have not done so yet to date.
· We will get whatever appraisals and disclose lease details when we are ready for Council to vote and a deal is negotiated as is done with MDJ leases and others the County engages in every year. A lease will be ready for presentation to the Finance Committee for the first meeting in the New Year.
WHEREAS, Northampton County Council requires that a full and complete review be had for any Employee Health Center, including, but not limited to, full disclosure as to all costs and expenses, staffing, compensation, operational costs, liability, and the County’s return on investment; and
· This full and complete review was done on August 17, October 5 and October 19th of this year and during interim calls between Commissioners and Integrity to answer questions individual Commissioners might have. Calls to Commissioners by Integrity have, in some cases, been ignored.
WHEREAS, The Administration has advised County Council that the Employee Health Center has been overwhelmingly approved following a survey of Northampton County Employees. The survey contacted less than 25% of the County’s workforce, did not include details and circumstances as to its operation and effect upon County employees, and did not set forth the terms and conditions of its use or operation. County Council requests that conditions of its use or operation. County Council requests that a full and complete survey with regard to the detailed data be made of Northampton County Employees as to this Employee Health Center, including but not limited to location and hours; and
· Employees cannot be forced to answer a survey. Twenty-five percent on any survey is a very good sample of the Northampton County workforce. Council has been asking employees what they need; Council can clearly ask employees if a free convenient alternative to health care was provided to them, would employees use it?
WHEREAS, Northampton County Council requests that a Request for Proposal be issued by Northampton County for any Employee Health Center; and
· Council cannot compel a service to be procured or determine the manner a service is to be procured. Council’s powers in the Home Rule Charter and Administrative Code are clear. Administration Code Section 13.03 states that “procurement authority and responsibility resides with the County Executive, subject to approval by County Council as required.” The Executive proposes and Council can approve or disapprove of the proposal. This section of the ordinance violates the separation of powers inherent in the Home Rule Charter.
WHEREAS, Northampton County Council requires that there be a full, complete, and transparent disclosure of all facts and circumstances of any Employee Health Center; and
· This was done during the meetings listed above and can be viewed online. Any suggestion this has not been done is simply not factual.
WHEREAS, Northampton County Council has been advised that other Counties within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, prior to the establishment of an Employee Health Center, have done so only after competitive bidding.
· Council has yet to provide this information to the Administration. While the Administration has been open and transparent about our intentions, it is clear that members of the Northampton County Council prefer to place statements into law without sufficient backup.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ENACTED AND ORDANINED by Northampton County Council as follows:
1. The Employee Health Center shall only be considered after a full and complete survey of County employees as stated above
a. This violates other provisions of Article 13 of the Administrative Code.
2. The Employee Health Center shall only be considered after a full and complete survey of County employees as stated above
a. “Full and complete” is subjective and there is no objective measure determining if this provision of the law is met. There is no legal authority which requires an employee to fill out a survey that may or may not be in their job description, and for union members such a mandate may violate applicable Collective Bargaining Agreements.
3. All Departments and Employees of Northampton County shall comply with the terms of this Ordinance
a. If this is an enforceable law it must be complied with. This statement is redundant and repetitive to the extent it is adjudicated lawful.
4. Any Ordinance or part of any Ordinance conflicting with the provisions of this Ordinance are hereby repealed in so far as the same affects this Ordinance
a. Standard language
5. The Administration is prohibited from transferring any monies from the 2023 Fiscal Budget of Northampton County for an Employee Health Center prior to review and approval by Northampton County Council
a. The Budget is an ordinance in and of itself. This Ordinance may have weight, but since there is no budget passed for 2023, this Ordinance references a law/Budget Ordinance that does not exist, therefore rendering this section of the Ordinance unenforceable as it would bind a future Council or Administration as stated in the Home Rule Charter.
Information provided to TVL by:
Deputy Director of Administration
Northampton County Government Center
669 Washington Street
Easton, PA 18042