Luzerne County Council set to hire manager Tuesday

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -

Luzerne County Courthouse

Luzerne County Council members are scheduled to hire a new top manager Tuesday, according to the online meeting agenda.

Council members interviewed finalists Jeffrey D. Beck, of Mountain Top, and C. David Pedri, of Butler Township, last week.

The plan to vote Tuesday indicates a council majority does not want to interview others.

David W. Johnston, of Washington, the third initial finalist supplied by an outside citizen manager search committee, withdrew, saying he was pursuing other opportunities.

Council Chairman Linda McClosky Houck had requested the next highest ranked applicant from the search committee, so the council could interview three finalists.

The committee forwarded the names of two more applicants instead of one because they were tied for the fourth slot based on the committee’s scoring, even when the tabulations were carried out to two decimal places. Those applicants were former county human resources director Donna Davis Javitz, who has a pending suit against the county over her termination, and Hazleton resident James Tighe, a source said.

Councilman Eugene Kelleher questioned the need for more finalists, saying he believes the search committee fulfilled its obligation by furnishing the top three.

Citizen Brian Shiner, who attends county meetings, said he does not believe the council is required to interview more than three because the council never publicly voted to seek additional applicants if one of the initial three dropped out.

According to council minutes:

The council agreed last May that the search committee, which is required by the county’s home rule charter, would forward the top three candidates to the council.

The protocol came up again at the Jan. 26 meeting.

During public comment, search committee Chairman Michael Giamber said the committee would recommend three finalists to the council and provide an additional candidate to the council if there are any unforeseen circumstances that eliminate one of the original three.

While nobody objected to Giamber’s suggestion at that meeting, the council did not expressly vote to require the furnishing of an additional candidate if one of the first three withdrew or mandate that three people must be interviewed before someone can be selected, records show.

At least seven of the 11 council members — a majority plus one — must approve the manager for the hiring to take effect, according to the charter.

The proposed resolution on Tuesday’s agenda includes a blank space for the name, starting date and salary of the selected person.

The position was advertised at an unusually broad salary range — $96,565 to $175,572 — because the county council decided to stick with the compensation wording in the charter.

The charter says the salary can’t exceed the elected district attorney’s compensation or be less than 55 percent of the district attorney’s salary, which is $175,572 this year.

The county budgeted $160,000 for the manager position in 2016. Prior manager Robert Lawton, who resigned in December, had received $110,000.

Beck has a master’s degree in business administration, owned a cleaning franchise company and previously had served as president and board director of Advanta Bank Corp. Pedri is chief county solicitor, has been serving as acting county manager since January, previously ran a private family law practice and worked as deputy county district attorney.

Luzerne County Courthouse County Courthouse

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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