Payroll firm addresses city's criticisms
Apr 13, 2012 (Reading Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The payroll software firm that the city is leaving -- and which it harshly criticized on its way out -- took exception to the criticism and insisted that Reading's payroll ills are due to untrained city workers using obsolete software.
"The city is free to change vendors at any time for any reason; it is not free to disseminate falsehoods in order to do so," the two top officials of PDS, based in Blue Bell, Montgomery County, wrote in a letter to Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer and Council President Francis G. Acosta.
Spencer said the city would not have a response Thursday while city solicitor Charles D. Younger studies the letter.
Acosta said the comments were made by the administration, and if they're incorrect it's the administration's responsibility to qualify them.
On Monday, as acting Director of Administrative Services Christian Zale told council why the administration wanted to outsource City Hall's entire payroll operation to another firm, he made several statements about the PDS system the city has used in-house since 2002.
He said the software costs $110,000 a year, is error-prone and caused the city to get two $50,000 fines (since forgiven) from the Internal Revenue Service. He also said PDS staff hasn't supported the software for some time.
Untrue, said Charles H. Jefferies, PDS president and chief executive, and Patricia A. Palmer, senior vice president and product manager.
In their letter, they said the city has never paid more than $30,500 in annual maintenance fees, and that the errors and IRS penalties were caused by a constant turnover of employees that the city refused to train.
"For many years while competent staff was in place the city used our payroll system without incident," they said. "Over time, due to staff turnover at the city, knowledge of the product and proper processing procedures have been impacted."
They said they repeatedly urged the city to get training, get professional help to fill in the staffing gaps, or get the software updated, but the city did nothing.
"Despite repeated notifications and phone calls, the city has continued to delay doing anything until the issue was forced by notification of a support cutoff (on Sept. 1) of their obsolete version," the letter said.
On Zale's statement that PDS had not supported the software, the two said PDS had supplied staff when asked to help during turnovers, and the most recent help desk call was on March 12, for an issue resolved that day.
In an interview, Palmer said when it became clear the city wouldn't move, she told it in November to look somewhere else for help.
"That was hard to do, but it was the right thing to do," she said. "To see that get turned around and we get slapped in our face "
Contact Don Spatz: 610-371-5027 or email@example.com.
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