Luzerne County Council members select chair and acting manager


By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com



Luzerne County Judge Thomas Burke administers the oath of office to Luzerne County Council members Eugene Kelleher, Edward Brominski, Tim McGinley and Jane Walsh Waitkus during a ceremony in the courthouse rotunda Monday night.


Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Debbie Kelleher tries to take a photo of newly sworn-in Luzerne County Councilman Eugene Kelleher as he hold his grandson, Jacob Polishan, 1, while Kelleher’s son-in-law, Tim Polishan, and grandson, Timmy, look on.


Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Luzerne County Council Chairwoman Linda McClosky Houck addresses the audience at a swearing-in ceremony for newly elected county council members Monday in the courthouse rotunda.


Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Luzerne County Magisterial District Judge Joseph Zola swears in new Luzerne County Councilman Robert Schnee in the courthouse rotunda Monday night.


Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Several key Luzerne County government leadership decisions were made Monday.

• Linda McClosky Houck will remain the county council chair, and Councilman Tim McGinley will be vice chairman.

The council members made the selection during Monday’s reorganization meeting, which was the first for three new council members who were sworn in before the meeting: Jane Walsh Waitkus, Eugene Kelleher and Robert Schnee.

• A council majority picked county Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri as acting manager until a permanent manager is hired, which should take several months.

The acting manager has all the powers and duties of the permanent manager, including approval of many contracts, overseeing day-to-day operations and hiring and firing workers in most departments.

• The volunteer citizen committee that will help select the county’s next manager met for nearly four hours Monday afternoon to firm up plans for advertising the top position.

Council chair

After the first round of voting, it appeared the council would have no chair because the vote was tied 5-5 for McClosky Houck and McGinley, with remaining council member Stephen A. Urban absent.

McClosky Houck and McGinley each voted for themselves.

McClosky Houck also received support from Edward Brominski, Harry Haas, Eileen Sorokas and Rick Williams.

The three new members voted for McGinley. Dobash said she didn’t want either but supported McGinley because she wanted to cause a tie and believed McClosky Houck “has her own agenda.”

Pedri said the council can keep voting until someone receives six votes.

On the second round, Kelleher changed his vote and supported McClosky Houck “to resolve this issue.” McClosky Houck received six votes, and Dobash, who attended by phone, abstained in the second round.

The chair has the same voting power as the others but plays a key role setting the tone of council meetings. The chair also prepares meeting agendas and often serves as county spokesperson.

The vice chairman vote also was tied 5-5 between McGinley and Haas.

“Welcome to council everybody,” Haas said.

“And this isn’t the most difficult decision on the agenda,” McClosky Houck added.

The vote result was tied again a second time. Haas then declined the nomination. He had voted for McGinley in the first two rounds and said he believed McGinley was “better suited” for vice chairman.

McGinley then received eight votes for vice chair, replacing Brominski, who did not seek reappointment.

Acting manager

Prior county manager Robert Lawton had selected county Administrative Services Division Head David Parsnik as acting manager, but the council was free to select someone else.

County Correctional Division Head J. Allen Nesbitt and county Engineer Greg Parrs also had expressed interest in the temporary post.

Pedri will not be paid extra to take on the additional duties. He has not named a temporary chief solicitor, but Dobash said she was informed that assistant solicitor Vito DeLuca will be acting head solicitor — a job he held previously.

“I am humbled by this vote of confidence by county council,” Pedri said after the meeting. “It is a privilege to be in public service. I will take this job very seriously and work hard at it until the new county manager search is completed.”

Pedri said he looks forward to meeting with employees to discuss their ideas and concerns.

Six council members supported Pedri’s nomination: Schnee, Sorokas, Walsh Waitkus, Williams, McGinley and Kelleher.

Dobash criticized the selection, saying she is “disgusted” with the way the appointment was handled and believes Pedri has provided “bad advice” to the council.

Haas also opposed Pedri’s appointment; he believed the selection of another employee would have left a smaller “gap” covering services. However, he later stressed he will support Pedri “100 percent.”

Nesbitt thanked the council for considering him and said he will support Pedri and “do everything possible to make this transition smooth.”

Manager search

The citizen manager search committee — Carmen Ambrosino, Gene A. Camoni, Robert E. Fisher, Gerard O’Donnell and Michael Giamber — agreed Monday to:

• Advertise the manager position at a compensation of $140,000 to $160,000.

• Accept applications for four weeks.

• Require — not recommend — that applicants provide concrete examples or evidence of how they have met specific skills required for the position, including experience with procurement, collective bargaining agreements, changing organizations and optimizing personnel.

• Honor the home rule charter’s minimum qualifications for the manager — at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and at least five years of relevant work experience — but add “administrative/managerial” after the word relevant.

• Include a credit check to screening that must be completed for prospective finalists.

• Require all five committee members to use a numbering system and categorized rating matrix to rank any applicants who meet minimum requirements to help determine which should be interviewed.

• Meet again at 9 a.m. Friday to finalize job advertisement plans.

Luzerne County Judge Thomas Burke administers the oath of office to Luzerne County Council members Eugene Kelleher, Edward Brominski, Tim McGinley and Jane Walsh Waitkus during a ceremony in the courthouse rotunda Monday night.
http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_TTL011216county-council1.jpgLuzerne County Judge Thomas Burke administers the oath of office to Luzerne County Council members Eugene Kelleher, Edward Brominski, Tim McGinley and Jane Walsh Waitkus during a ceremony in the courthouse rotunda Monday night. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Debbie Kelleher tries to take a photo of newly sworn-in Luzerne County Councilman Eugene Kelleher as he hold his grandson, Jacob Polishan, 1, while Kelleher’s son-in-law, Tim Polishan, and grandson, Timmy, look on.
http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_TTL011216county-council4.jpgDebbie Kelleher tries to take a photo of newly sworn-in Luzerne County Councilman Eugene Kelleher as he hold his grandson, Jacob Polishan, 1, while Kelleher’s son-in-law, Tim Polishan, and grandson, Timmy, look on. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Luzerne County Council Chairwoman Linda McClosky Houck addresses the audience at a swearing-in ceremony for newly elected county council members Monday in the courthouse rotunda.
http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_TTL011216county-council3.jpgLuzerne County Council Chairwoman Linda McClosky Houck addresses the audience at a swearing-in ceremony for newly elected county council members Monday in the courthouse rotunda. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Luzerne County Magisterial District Judge Joseph Zola swears in new Luzerne County Councilman Robert Schnee in the courthouse rotunda Monday night.
http://psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_TTL011216county-council2.jpgLuzerne County Magisterial District Judge Joseph Zola swears in new Luzerne County Councilman Robert Schnee in the courthouse rotunda Monday night. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

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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