An investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has resulted in some sanctions and changes in the City of Warren building code department, including one lay-off.
According to Assistant City Manager Mary Ann Nau, in April 2011, two city employees conducted commercial building inspections at a time when they were not certified to do so.
City solicitor Andrea Stapleford met with Labor and Industry officials to negotiate a resolution to the situation, Nau said.
As a result of those negotiations, two city employees received individual sanctions and the city agreed to take the steps needed to meet the department's requirements.
Alan Gustafson and Greg Garthwaite of the city's building code office were individually sanctioned by Labor and Industry for conducting commercial building inspections without current Pennsylvania certifications.
Neither will be allowed to conduct commercial building inspections for one year. Gustafson, who was the city's building code officer, may not have that title or the duties that go with it for two years. Garthwaite will not be allowed to serve as building code officer for one year.
According to Nau, both officials now have all necessary certifications.
At the time of the investigation, Gustafson's was fully certified in New York state and Garthwaite had been fully certified in Pennsylvania, but that credential had lapsed, Gustafson said. Pennsylvania and New York do not have a reciprocal agreement for building code certifications.
"The qualifications are not in question," Gustafson said. "It's the paperwork."
In response to a portion of the sanctions, Nau will undergo training to become the city's new building code officer.
The city plans to hire a part-time commercial building code inspector and has already been in talks with someone with those certifications about the position, Nau said.
"Alternate arrangements for providing those services have already been made through a reorganization of the department resulting in the layoff of one full-time employee and the addition of one part-time person to perform commercial inspections," Nau said. City officials did not identify the employee who was laid off, but it was not Gustafson nor Garthwaite.
Nau said the qualifications and certifications of each member of the department was taken into account when determining who would be let go. Nau said the former employee is subject to recall.
The sanctions, according to city officials, affect only the city's commercial building code inspection, not residential inspections nor zoning responsibilities. "Our residential inspections are not impacted," Nau said.
Residential inspections account for about 80 percent of the department's inspection work, Gustafson said. Some of the work is done outside of the city in nine municipalities in the county.
"We inspect for 70 percent of the population of Warren County," Nau said. "This change should not impact them one iota. For the municipalities this should be a seamless transition."
City officials sent a letter last week to the municipalities that cooperate with the city on inspections.
Because the inspector will be a city employee, "we're still going to schedule from here," Nau said. "The face of this program is still going to be the city."
"We've made adjustments and are going to move on," Gustafson said.
"We're going to land on our feet," Nau said.