Luzerne County Council to interview manager finalists next week

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -

Luzerne County Council members are scheduled to interview the three county manager finalists next week, council Vice Chairman Tim McGinley said Tuesday.

A source last week identified the finalists as Jeffrey D. Beck, David W. Johnston and C. David Pedri.

Beck, of Mountain Top, owned a cleaning franchise company and previously had served as president and board director of Advanta Bank Corp. Johnston has worked as city manager of Maple Valley, Washington, since 2009 and has held other governmental positions in Indiana and Illinois. Pedri is chief county solicitor, has been serving as acting county manager since January and previously ran a private family law practice and worked as deputy county district attorney.

Prior county manager Robert Lawton resigned at the end of 2015.

Councilman Eugene Kelleher proposed an additional step to the council’s manager selection process during Tuesday’s on-the-road meeting at the Pittston Memorial Library in Pittston.

After the council interviews and discusses the applicants, it should hold an executive session to receive input from the five citizens who served on the manager search committee, Kelleher said.

The committee was required by the county’s home rule charter to conduct a search and interview and recommend finalists to the council.

To ensure its own independent review, the council had voted to receive the committee’s finalists in alphabetical order with their resumes but no insight from the committee. Some committee members were taken aback that the council did not want their professional observations and feedback.

The council agreed to forward Kelleher’s proposal to the county solicitor’s office for a legal opinion.

In other business, Pedri said construction has started behind the county courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.

Past-borrowed funds were earmarked to remove a deteriorating wall, repair the employee stairs and loading dock and pave the parking lot. The rear lot is used for employee parking, but Pedri assured the council spaces reserved for workers will be reduced to create more public parking when the lot is finished.

A courthouse elevator rehabilitation project also has been completed, ending past concerns about malfunctions that created problems transporting inmates and people with disabilities to courtrooms and other offices on upper floors, Pedri said.

Five of the nine council members in attendance Tuesday voted to introduce an ordinance that would create a new county committee to identify vacant blighted properties and push for corrective action.

A majority of the 11-member council must approve the ordinance at a future meeting for the committee to be formed. A public hearing also is required before the final vote.

A council majority also voted Tuesday to:

• Appoint Charles Blewitt to the county Drug and Alcohol Executive Commission and three citizens to the Agency on Aging Advisory Board — Beverly Johnston, Owen Lavery and Martin Meyer.

• Extend the lease for a property at 280 N. Sherman St., Wilkes-Barre, housing Magisterial District Court 11-1-02.

The council had voted in January to extend the Sherman Street lease until April 30 while the administration finalized plans to combine both Wilkes-Barre magisterial offices at 100 Hazle St. to save money, but that process is behind schedule.

The latest lease extension until July 31 will increase the county’s monthly rent on the Sherman Street property 12.5 percent, from $7,887 to $8,873, from May through July.

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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