For months taxpayers have watched as the Blair County Prison Board has wrestled with the issue of excessive call-offs by corrections officers.
During that time, taxpayers, who are responsible for paying the bill, have been justifiably alarmed about the excessive overtime costs associated with the call-offs.
Last month, Blair County Judge Daniel Milliron, who is a member of the prison board, made public in a letter that there is an internal split in the union representing prison workers. Now residents are beginning to learn just how serious the split might be.
At the board's request, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections conducted an investigation and prepared a report into alleged employee misconduct at the prison.
Sheriff Mitchell Cooper, who chairs the prison board, said a prison operation committee plans to develop an action plan in response to the report. The full board intends to review and possibly approve the plan on March 20.
Cooper said none of the purported conflicts - he used the word "hostilities" - have involved criminal conduct or illegalities.
Still, the matter must be taken seriously.
Taxpayers have not been told what role, if any, the employee conflicts have played in the call-offs or in the failure of some correctional officers to attend training sessions on work-attendance provisions within the union contract.
According to Susan Bensinger, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Department, the state report now is the property of the prison board, and it's up to the board to release the findings or make comments about the report.
The prison board should do both.
It should commit itself to disclosing all information in the report that the public has a right to know. Understandably, there might be information in the reportedly lengthy document that could be classified as "personnel matters" that the board would have to review in executive sessions, but that should be minimal.
Cooper said the call-offs/overtime problem and the conflicts among employees are "two separate issues."
Maybe that's true from the standpoint of dealing with them. However, in reality, they make up one big problem - keeping the prison from operating at its maximum financial and manpower efficiency.
For that reason, further delaying resolution of the prison's problems is no longer an option.