Luzerne County can’t select an outside candidate to be temporary manager, attorney says

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -

Luzerne County government’s temporary manager must be a current county employee — not someone from the outside, an attorney advised the county council Monday.

Attorney John Dean also concluded the council did not violate the state Sunshine Act by publicly seeking outside applicants for interim manager following a closed-door executive session last week.

Dean was consulted because the county Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri, who normally advises the council on legal matters, is a possible candidate for the temporary manager position.

The county needs a temporary manager because county Manager Robert Lawton has resigned, effective Dec. 31.

Lawton had designated county Administrative Services Division Head David Parsnik as the acting manager, but the council can select someone else. Some council members have expressed concerns that Parsnik has too much on his plate to take on the additional role, in part because the county has no human resources director — a department that falls under his division.

The search and selection process for Lawton’s replacement is expected to take several months.

Council Chairwoman Linda McClosky Houck told her colleagues in an email Monday afternoon that she believes more than one employee has expressed interest in the temporary manager assignment.

The council will meet in executive session Tuesday to discuss employees who may be prospective temporary managers, McClosky Houck said.

County Councilman Rick Morelli last week questioned the legality of seeking outside applicants for the temporary manager post without public discussion about that plan. Letters of interest were due at 4 p.m. today.

The state Sunshine Act says official action resulting from discussions held in executive session must be taken at an open meeting. Morelli said the decision to publicly seek advertisements for an interim manager is an official action.

Dean concluded the request for letters of interest was an attempt to solicit information, not an official action.

Morelli also said he believes a decision on whether to retain a temporary outside manager should be made when three newly elected council members take their seats in January.

McClosky Houck has said the council must have someone in place Jan. 1 “to step in and be signer on pertinent documents.”

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

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