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Lebanon PA 17046
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Thank you for your help and support
during this campaign. Your unwavering commitment is
the wind beneath my wings.
On election day, every vote matters. You
matter! And I can't win this race without you.
you for your support and for all that you do.
Sincerely, Jo Ellen
People Above Politics
Team Litz: Treasurer, Cathy Garrison
Honorary Chair: Lt.
Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll --a woman who broke the glass ceiling and
contributed greatly to PA politics; born
in 1930, died
November 12, 2008.
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Web site paid for by Jo Ellen Litz.
|What do you think Lebanon County?
This is your chance to have your opinion published right on the web!
me and I will periodically update your comments on this page!
A few rules:
|Names are optional||
|All comments may not be posted|
|Comments may not be
posted in their entirety|
on this page: High Band
- Prison Rape -
Child Support - Parole
- Sunshine Law
12/30/04 I don't understand how three cell
towers can provide adequate coverage when we are supposed to activate a
total of seven towers. Please explain.
In the last thirty days,
there were 2,354 alpha-numeric pages sent
by EMA. This does not include those that were dual
dispatched digital and voice, which brings the actual number of pages to
around 4700. Of about a dozen complaints,
all but three failed dispatches
were attributed to dual dispatch or human
error. One of the three was a programming error in the
paging base with the Friendship, a second with Campbelltown Fire Company
missing some pages on Christmas, and another amounted to pagers not
activated, which we cannot explain. To trace the last problem type,
EMA purchased a Doplar-style
radio antenna to search for stray
signals interfering with EMA transmissions--perhaps from a local
business or other source. Keep in mind that all
dispatches use our current 3-tower system. I
asked EMA Director Dan Kaufman
how this could be. Put another way, why do we need seven towers?
Three towers cover the the County, but seven towers
will build in redundancy. Right now, if a tower goes down, we do
not have coverage throughout the County. Redundancy is recommended for
said, “In the past, when a 100 watt signal was sent out over low-band, the
signal had the potential to follow the ground and travel further than an
equivalent high-band transmission. However, three things have impacted this
Competition for air space with neighboring counties--York
and Lancaster--who are assigned the same channel;
Increased “white noise” from all of our electronics—tv’s,
sensitivity of the pagers from the resulting decreased signal strength.”
Therefore, because of less
competition for space and less white noise on high-band, when using three
towers after switching to an alpha-numeric system only on January 1, 2005,
it will not be perfect, but more pagers will receive a digital signal and
there will be less human error. It is even possible to receive pages in the
basement of the Municipal Building. There are qualifications:
- It is still possible to have a
bad pager, which will need to be brought in for repairs
(loaners are available if it is not an immediate fix);
- For safety,
if a company doesn’t respond, another company is called out within
for transmission order and abbreviations will take effect January 1;
- It is still
possible to have a dead spot although increasingly rare. No system is
Advantages of alpha-numeric
high-band paging include:
Human error should be reduced significantly.
We've all lined up as children and started a story at one
end to see what message was announced by the person at the other end of the
line. Similarly, seven steps may be
involved now, but reduced to five steps with one dispatch;
then reduced again to two or three steps with a
CAD system—increasing accuracy by eliminating steps
and adding technology. Currently:
An operator answers the phone, tape records and writes down the
A second operator listens and enters data into an alpha-numeric
A voice message is broadcast;
Tones are hit;
A hand log is entered by the second operator;
A media log is entered;
And a police log may also be entered onto still another computer.
You can also page individuals numerically and leave your phone
The pagers hold 60 pages for future
Even if a message is not complete, more pagers will receive a
signal. At least you know to respond to your fire company or can call EMA.
When the seven towers go live,
we will have an even better system.
Call volume is continually
increasing. In 2004, 50,012 911 calls were received
by telecommunicaters, and that’s without police and firemen who call
in. Right now, because of cell phones, it is not uncommon for thirty people
to call in for one accident. Each person can theoretically provide an
additional piece of information—a victim thrown from a car, for example.
line, there will be fewer glitches with alpha-numeric paging only than there
is with dual dispatching or voice paging.
12/28/04 I was at the Budget
Will County taxes
really go up by 23%? Judge Eby
pointed out that the average household will
experience a county tax increase of about $1
per week. Admittedly, 3 mills is 10% of the General Fund budget, but 23%
of the revenue raised through millage.
Unfortunately, the same increases that you are facing, the County is
facing, and we have limited ways to raise revenue to balance our budget,
which we are mandated by the state to do.
|Did you vote yourself
a raise, and are you part time?
No. I work fulltime--on call 24/7. Remember the tornado? I also get
called when there is a prison break.... I attend meetings any where from
7:30 am through 9:30 pm. I am usually at my desk in the courthouse in the
morning. I answer emails at night. Further, a
board of commissioners can not vote for their own salary. The previous
board of commissioners voted for the pay scale.|
|What kind of
perks do you get? The short answer is, the same as most people--like
social security, workman's compensation, and unemployment compensation. I
did not sign up for County medical insurance. I do not have a County car,
and I do not get mileage for meetings--and I am "assigned" a lot of
regional meetings--South Central Employment Corporation, Resource
Conservation and Development District, and tourism was regional at one
time. I do get reimbursed for training at the County Commissioner's
Association of Pennsylvania.|
|Did everyone speak
against a tax hike? No.
Skip Wolfe gave an
example of the $21,000 that was cut from Coleman's Park last year. He
explained that that resulted in Coleman's laying off one of two employees
and cutting back on services, which the public noticed and complained
about. Another man said that he understood the
increase, but asked the judge to back the reserve out of the increase that
he grants. CW|
information, a budget is a plan of financial activity for a specified
period of time. It provides a mechanism to allocate resources for the
pursuit of community goals. Budgeting helps commissioners set goals, and
assists department heads in improving organizational performance. The
budget is a concise way to communicate changes in priorities and rational
for decision making. It can help people understand the need for change
and reasons behind policy decisions. Finally, a budget establishes public
accountability by offering residents a clear statement of how tax money is
spent and proof that county finances are in good shape. To inform the
public, this is the first year that the County of Lebanon posted the
budget on their web page. |
Taxes are the
root of all evil, simply because people rely on government to do things
for them instead of doing for themselves.
You say insurances went up, did you shop
for better prices elsewhere.
medical insurance carriers wanted over a 40% increase. Highmark
came in at 19%, and then Blue Cross dropped to 18%.
Are the employees paying their share of
their Medical Insurance.
That is in union negotiations.
People in prison why can't they be made
to do road work or any thing that costs can be cut. They cut
into somebody's rights or they wouldn't be there in the
first place. We do
have trustees who cook in the prison kitchen, mow lawns....
Are the employees doing the work they are
getting paid for, maybe we can double up on some projects.
At the prison
and Cedar Haven, we get audited by the State, and
the audit report suggests a ratio of
guards or nurses to patients
With all the new homes going up and all
that tax money coming in how can you justify raising taxes.
Unfortunately, I'm told that
taxes from development do not cover all of the services provided. It is
actually "cheaper" for municipal services to have farmland which does
not require police protection, schools, prisons,
Since I am not in your position,
maybe I shouldn't judge, but if you would be in my position and on a
fixed income like so many of us are then we must speak up.
Services are great and I am no different then the next person I
like things free too, but we must realize all things cost the tax payers
who must foot the bills. Understood.
Years ago I though all taxes should cover
expenses only, not to build up reserves or slush funds.
No slush. Utility bills go up, lawsuits
creep up, disasters strike, and union negotiations don't always
favor the government. We are to have a
(not to exceed 10% of the general fund)
for such unexpected
The longer things are done this way the
harder it will be to get back on track. I
hope all three of you read this letter, I am thinking of putting this in
the Public Form and see what response I get.
11/04 Where is it
written that the County must balance the budget (Eric W)?
While not as clear as the requirement for the
state (found in Article 8 sections 12 and 131 of the Constitution), the provision
for counties is (emphasis added):
§ 1783. Annual budget appropriations and tax rate
The budget shall reflect as nearly as possible the estimated revenues and
expenditures for the year for which it is prepared. The commissioners
shall, upon adopting the budget, adopt the appropriation measures required
to put it into effect, and shall fix such rate of taxation upon the
valuation of the property taxable for county purposes as will, together with
all other estimated revenues of the county, excluding operating, capital and
other reserve funds, raise a sufficient sum to meet the said expenditures.
OK So once the budget is passed, why do
you (commissioners) insist on micromanaging departments? Shouldn't
departments be allowed to work within their approved budget?
§ 203. Vesting of
The corporate power of each county shall be vested in a board of
and § 202. General powers
Each county shall have capacity as a body corporate to:
(1) Have succession perpetually by its corporate name.
(2) Sue and be sued and complain and defend in all proper courts by the
name of the county of .....................
(3) Purchase, acquire by gift or otherwise, hold, lease, let and convey
such real and personal property as shall be deemed to be for the best
interests of the county.
(4) Make contracts for carrying into execution the laws relating to
counties and for all lawful purposes.
(5) Have and use a seal which shall be in the custody of the commissioners
thereof. The official acts of the commissioners shall be authenticated
therewith. The commissioners may prescribe the form of such seal.
(6) To make appropriations for any purpose authorized by this or any other
act of the General Assembly.
and § 1701. Functions of county
The county commissioners shall be the responsible managers and
administrators of the fiscal affairs of their respective counties in
accordance with the provisions of this act and other applicable law.
Taken together, these essentially say that unless otherwise provided in the
Code, the commissioners are wholly and exclusively responsible for
management of county affairs. The preceding courtesy of
I also wanted to take a few minutes to address
your question without quoting an Act. I need to
ask, as a taxpayer, are you advocating that commissioners should not worry
about or be held accountable to balance the budget?
prescribed by a 1956 Act of the Pennsylvania Legislature, most county
governments provide a host of mandated services at the local level—from
emergency management to mental health services. For the most part, voters
from within their county’s borders elect county commissioners. Once
elected, commissioners have the responsibility to review, then work within
a budget that has undergone public scrutiny.
Unlike businesses that must compete to
survive in the market place for sales revenue, county government receives
the bulk of its operating revenue from real estate taxes. However, the
public pays directly for some services in the form of user taxes--review of
farm nutrient management plans (plans to dispose of animal manure in an
environmentally safe manner), for example. Funds also come from the county
courts, which also collect fines and impose penalties on guilty persons for
everything from drinking and driving to failure to pay child support.
Further, many counties have started charging inmates for room and board
while housed in their prisons. Together with taxes, these funds and more
comprise a county’s operating budget.
County government provides for public health,
safety, and welfare, often becoming one of the largest employers in their
region (Lebanon County has more than 1,000 employees, thereby ranking in the
top ten county employers). Therefore, commissioners also need skills in
human relations management and collective bargaining. Finally, county
government cannot go out of business. With the election and turnover of
county commissioners, there is a system of checks and balances on the
bureaucracy of a perpetually operating government entrenched in providing
mandated services without fear of competitors for their services. In
addition, there is seldom a county that goes bankrupt. At one time,
Schuylkill County almost declared bankruptcy. But a court order mandated
procedures until attaining solvency. In contrast, businesses regularly
succeed and fail based upon the ability of the entrepreneur or board of
directors to establish a vision and direct production of a product or
common sense dictates a balanced budget each year. Jo
What is your opinion on potential
rapes at the County prison?
First, neither man or woman,
in prison or out of prison, deserves to be raped. Since this is both
a sensitive and volatile topic, rather than shooting from the hip at last
Thursday's meeting, I did some research on rape policy at the prison. While
Warden Raiger was out, I did talk to medical staff. A summary follows:
Often times, inmates are afraid to speak to
officers, probably because other inmates may see them in conversation.
However, nurses seem to be the 'safe haven' for inmates to talk. If sexual
assault is reported, an inmate is taken immediately to the hospital for DNA,
sexually transmitted disease, and other tests. There are also times
that rumors prompt nurses to call inmates in to talk. If an inmate confides
that an assault took place, the inmate is sent to the hospital for
examination, and the State Police are called in to do an investigation. Two
times in the last several years, accused
assaulters were separated and put in restrictive housing, then tried and
when found guilty, sent to State prison for five to ten years. When I
learned that one of the two inmates was in prison for child molestation, I
was convinced that this policy is enforced across the board without
discrimination. For your information, in the last several years, no women
have reported rapes.
I am married to a man who has been since I've
known him (almost two years) in a cycle with the
child support system, they have laws in place to help the plaintiff
but not the defendant who has no legal representation at all. He is paying
but not enough to cover the order that was put in place when he was working
at a different job. He is not allowed to put in for a modification for
whatever reasons and he needs legal help. We don't qualify for low or no
cost because of my income, why, I am not responsible for his child support.
I already handle all of the household bills due to his obligation for child
support what more can I do. There has to be someone or some agency out
there that can help but no one seems to want to get involved. Can you tell
me why not, at least I will know what I am up against.
DW. First, I am not an attorney, and my comments can not be
considered legal advice. Also, please don't take them personal. I am not
taking sides. I am simply relaying my observations that may help you to
"understand" not necessarily agree with how the court system works. That
being said, as I understand it, the courts have a firm belief that a parent
must pay child support to the custodial parent who must get up with the
child in the middle of the night to care for him when he's sick; they must
help them with homework, make sure he takes a bath, combs his hair, and
brushes his teeth; see that he gets to school; takes him to the doctor....
The list goes on. A judge would probably ask you if you knew about the
child support when you got married. Then he might ask if it is right that
someone produces a child, then doesn't help to care for him, at least
through child support. Knowing this "school of thought", attorneys may know
that pursuit of an appeal might be another financial burden that you can't
afford, and that may be why most attorneys don't want to take your
money/case. While you don't mention how old the child is, support normally
ends at age 18. Please don't shoot the messenger.
relative has served his six months, and he has not been released
on parole from
prison. Why? First, because
of overcrowding and the fact that we have the
expense of feeding, clothing, and providing shelter for a prisoner, the
commissioners do not want to keep anyone in prison longer than we have to.
My guess is that your relative was sentenced to
something like six months to two years. That means he is eligible for
parole at the end of six months, but there is no guarantee that he will be
released in six months. Six months is simply the first time that he is
eligible for parole. I am aware of two things that could extend his stay:
1) a misconduct for violating prison policy, which may have an automatic
three month extension (did he get into a fight or throw things at people?),
2) lack of an approved home plan. The chief of probation explained to me
that prisoners got into prison through making bad choices. To help them
keep on the right path when leaving prison, probation officers help
prisoners make good choices with an approved home
plan. For example, a prisoner would not be released back into a setting
where drugs were available or where violence occurred.
**7/04 I don't get
this whole thing about the Sunshine Law.
Can you explain it to me? I consider Doug
Hill, the president of the County Commissioner's Association of
Pennsylvania, to be the expert. Here's what he says:
This is to confirm the information we
discussed concerning the circumstances in which commissioner meetings are
determined to be open meetings under the Sunshine Law.
The Act (65 Pa.C.S.A. 701 ff.) sets a general
standard that all meetings of covered agencies at which agency business is
transacted are open to the public, unless closed for some reason
specifically stated in the law.
Your question is a basic one concerning the
general standard for open meetings. While the law creates a standard that
all meetings are open, it does not create a presumption that every time
commissioners gather it constitutes a meeting. Rather, the law creates a
three part test by defining a meeting as “any prearranged gathering of an
agency which is attended or participated in by a quorum of the members of an
agency held for the purpose of deliberating agency business or taking
Taking these tests in turn, the first is
prearrangement. Typically this includes the normal advertised regular or
special meetings, but can include other meetings for which the members of
the agency received advance notice. It does not include chance encounters,
nor does it include other nominally “scheduled” public events such as church
services, theater events, and so on. Naturally there is a presumption the
agency will not use the opportunity of a chance encounter to conduct agency
Second is participation by a quorum. This
test is commonly met for most county and township boards, which consist of
three members and thus have a quorum any time two are present. Because a
quorum is so easily established, our analysis of the statute rarely focuses
on this test.
Finally, the meeting must be for the purpose
of conducting deliberations or official action on agency business. In this
respect, the definitions of either “deliberations” or “official action” must
be met. Deliberations are “the discussion of agency business held for the
purpose of making a decision,” and official action includes (1)
recommendations made by an agency pursuant to statute, ordinance or
executive order; (2) the establishment of policy by an agency; (3) the
decisions on agency business made by an agency; or (4) the vote taken by any
agency on any motion, proposal, resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance,
report or order.
All three tests,
each of which is clearly delineated, must be met before the meeting is
considered to be open under the provisions of the act, and failure to meet
any one of them places the meeting outside the statute. For example, the
common practice of new or newly-reconstituted boards of commissioners
meeting with agencies under county purview or related to the county to
receive information on agency functions and projects does not satisfy the
definition of meeting, since the simple gathering of information meets
neither the standard of deliberation nor any of the four standards of
Even if all the tests are met, it should be
noted that the law at section 707 provides three clear exceptions to the
meeting standard, including executive sessions, conferences, and certain
meetings of auditors. The conference exception includes “any training
program or seminar, or any session arranged by State or Federal agencies for
local agencies, organized and conducted for the sole purpose of providing
information to agency members on matters directly related to their official
Last, it is important to note that the act
also recognizes the unique nature of county government, in which the
governing body has both legislative and administrative functions. The issue
is dealt with in the Act’s definitions of “administrative action”, “agency
business”, and “official action”:
§ 703. Definitions
The following words and phrases
when used in this chapter shall have the meanings given to them in this
section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Administrative action." The
execution of policies relating to persons or things as previously
authorized or required by official action of the agency adopted at an
open meeting of the agency. The term does not, however, include the
deliberation of agency business. (Emphasis added)
* * *
"Agency business." The
framing, preparation, making or enactment of laws, policy or regulations,
the creation of liability by contract or otherwise or the adjudication of
rights, duties and responsibilities, but not including administrative
action. (Emphasis added)
* * *
(1) Recommendations made by an agency
pursuant to statute, ordinance or executive order.
(2) The establishment of policy by an agency.
(3) The decisions on agency business made by
(4) The vote taken by any agency on any
motion, proposal, resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance, report or order.
The Act requires that all official action,
and deliberations leading to official action, must be held in an open
meeting. Official action includes “agency business”, but the definition of
agency business specifically excludes “administrative action”, so the
conclusion is that administrative action is not official action, and hence
not subject to the statute’s open meetings requirement.
This is in fact an issue we lobbied when the
bill was under consideration in the Legislature. Given the dual roles of
county commissioners (and the fact that any time two commissioners are
together there is a quorum), we felt it important to distinguish between
their legislative and their executive/administrative roles. The legislature
agreed, and addressed the issue as described above.
Note that there are no cases we know of that
give more guidance as to what constitutes “administrative action”, but there
are a number of cases that show the other end of the spectrum regarding what
constitutes “official action”. Your solicitor can begin by reviewing the
cases cited following 65 Pa.C.S.A. 703 in Purdon’s.
I hope you find this information useful. You
can find more information in the DCED publication on open meetings, found by
going to the Departmental website at
www.inventpa.com, clicking on
“Communities in PA”, then on “Center for Local Government Services” and
finally on “Publications.” Note that this letter reflects our experience
with the statute and its genesis, but should not be construed as legal
This site is packed with helpful and needed information. It's a great
resource and a wonderful way to reach John Q. Public. Lisa W. Thanks
Lisa. Your comment comes around the first year anniversary for this
site. You and a couple of thousand other people found the site worth
visiting. So you, John Q. Public, made the site successful!|
|7/1/99 What is the Internal Medicine Building?
Ed2 The building is a doctors office down the road from the Municipal
Building (acquired in the 1999 bond issue) that will be used as an adult
and juvenile probation center.|
|6/25/99 Does the County and City ever talk or
projects? YES. Please allow me to review some projects done in concert
with the City. Since I've been your County Commissioner I can recall:
appropriating liquid fuels funds to the City for road repairs; since we
operate the prison to punish convicted criminals but don't have a police
force (disparit jurisdiction), Commissioners designated the City to
receive our $26,000 allotment; to help with economic development, the
County approved release of the bankrupt steel foundry from our repository
(forgiving all back taxes) to Jack Keener for clean-up and development;
and we approved and signed a resolution supporting a KOZ (Keystone
Opportunity Zone) to help attract businesses to ailing properties like the
Colonial theater; in addition, I supported an overpass for the City of
Lebanon for priority inclusion at the top of our 12 year plan for Penn
Dot. Perhaps not as grandiose, the County supports the 25 cent COLT bus
routes to the downtown business district; installed security at the
courthouse; cooperated by opening the courthouse on a Saturday to
accommodate security when the KKK was in town; and will fund and install
the mechanicals (pipes and electric upgrades) at the Courthouse. Granted,
the City will pay back their share over a period of time, but they didn't
have to "front" their 25% for the needed upgrade. Finally, the Mayor and
County Commissioners jointly issue proclamations to worthy organizations
like the Children's Miracle Network.
|5/20/99 I am a 50 year-old student of the PA
State University and a resident of Lebanon County for 48 years. Are you
aware of any Victim Services Certificate programs, similar to a program at
California State University Fresno, being taught by a college or
university of the Commonwealth of PA? Several students and myself are
very interested in acquiring a certificate which will provide us with the
knowledge, foundation, and skills needed for work with crime victims here
in PA. Ronald Stegal JoEtta Shultz, our victim witness coordinator,
knows of various colleges providing interns to her for credit. For more
information, she suggests calling the PA Commission on Crime and
Delinquency at 1-800-692-7292 or visit
|5/4/99 Through a search, I found your place on
the internet and some information on the bootcamp program. My long term
goal has always been to become a Drill Instructor at at Juvenile Justice
Boot Camp, and I am looking for information to keep me moving in that
direction, especially on requirements for the position. Trevor W.
Dennis Heckard, our juvenile probation officer, recommends contacting
Cornell-Abraxas Leadership Development Program, PO BOX 354, South Mountain
PA 17261 or Northwestern Academy Boot Camp, 3800 State Route 61, Coal
Township PA 17666. Jeffrey Imboden, our chief adult probation officer
suggests trying Quehanna Boot Camp, Box HC32, Karthaus PA 16845.
|3/30/99 I don't understand why we need a new
courtroom even with a fourth judge. Why can't we have evening court? We
will still have to have additional staffing, BUT, the citizens won't have
to spend tax dollars for an additional court room, AND if they have
domestic type cases in the evenings people won't have to take off work and
lose pay they really can't afford to lose. Thanks for listening...Great
web site! Ideiner Thanks for the input. A cost study
was done concerning those people working at night. In the long-run,
because courts are labor intensive (judges, lawyers, deputies & transport,
tip staff, stenographers...), it would be much more expensive to run night
court than to build the space.
|Also, about 20 years ago, the prison guards ate
the same food as the inmates at TAXPAYERS expense. If this is still
happening, it should be discontinued. No other job provides meals for
employees. If it continues, feed all the city/county employees. Good
point, but most people don't want to eat the prisoner's food. You never
know what's in there. If guards choose to eat inmate's food, it's at
their own risk. Seriously though, in September 2004, a
reader provided some important insight.
father-in-law works in a State correctional facility, and I know that his
meals are provided there, for what seems to me an obvious reason: because
he interacts with inmates throughout the day, he cannot bring outside food
of any sort with him into the facility. If employees brought lunches,
they would have to be searched daily to ensure that employees are not
bringing any banned substances in to inmates.
If an employee were to
bring a lunch of his own, he would need to keep it outside of the prison
facility until lunchtime, then leave the prison complex to eat it. That
practice would be particularly inconvenient for
guards, who may need to be called upon during the lunch hour to settle
disturbances. If the correctional facility did not provide meals for its
employees, it would be short-staffed every day at meal times....
Perhaps the security
measures are different at the County prison, but at the State prison it is
a matter of safety for the inmates. It's much safer if no one is allowed
to bring food into the prison, to prevent employees from sneaking in
drug-laced cookies (or any less-offensive perks) to give to inmates."
|10/26/98 Congratulations on a great web site.
This is going to be a more responsible way for many of us to access
information about our local county government after hours. Is there
anyway you can keep us informed of what the County Commissioners do at
their meetings? Many of us would appreciate your comments. Thanks for
doing a great public service. John H|
John: This may make a great new page. Give
me a little time, and I'll see what I can do. Thanks for the input! Jo
|10/7/98 Please think long and hard about an
outside management firm. The only way to run things cheaper is to screw
the workers. The county is already too cheap. I can't believe you can
find EMA personnel less than $30,000 a year. Those people are way
underpaid. So you don't even want to hear what I have to say about Cedar
Haven, Domestic Relations, and every other hard working person. I find it
hard to believe any other company can do the same job, employ the same
number of people (no lay off) and make a profit, without screwing the
already underpaid little guy. Thank you for giving me a way to reach you
and express this. Tom Rank |