Will proposed Luzerne County home rule change discourage manager applicants?

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com | January 15th, 2016 5:43 pm

A push to significantly alter or get rid of Luzerne County’s home rule government is smack in the middle of the search for a new county government manager.

Michael Giamber, chair of the citizen manager search committee, said the possibility of a government change may discourage some from applying.

“It’s just an awkward time to be doing it,” Giamber said.

The manager job could switch from an appointed post to an elected post under one suggested home rule change. The top manager job would be eliminated entirely if the county went back to a system where three elected commissioners oversee daily operations.

However, such changes would not be immediate. Voters first must agree to create a new government study commission, which would have up to 18 months to decide if change is warranted and, if so, what new government option should be presented to voters for their consideration, the law says.

County Councilman Kathy Dobash told her county council colleagues she plans to introduce an ordinance placing a question on the election ballot asking county voters if they want to form a new government study commission. She originally wanted to place the question on the April 26 primary ballot but is now proposing it for the November general election, according to an email she sent to the council.

The proposal is scheduled for discussion at the Jan. 26 council meeting.

The manager search committee had discussed informing applicants, in the interest of full disclosure, of the possibility the home rule government could be changed after it marks its five-year anniversary next January. The council discussion about a ballot question may turn that possibility into a likelihood.

Giamber stressed he believes the home rule charter warrants tweaking as soon as possible but questions whether an evaluation of the effectiveness of the entire county manager form of government should wait until a new manager has been on board for some time.

Robert Lawton, who resigned the end of 2015, was the only non-interim manager since home rule’s implementation and held the position for nearly four years.

The county received 72 applications for the manager position when Lawton was selected.

The application process will be more grueling this time because the committee is requiring applicants to provide more than resumes. Applicants must submit concrete examples or evidence of knowledge and skills required for the position, including experience with contracting, union agreements and turning around organizations.

The search committee members — who also include Carmen Ambrosino, Gene A. Camoni and Gerard O’Donnell — agreed this supplemental information was needed to thoroughly evaluate applicants, even if the additional burden prevents some from applying.

The committee, which will meet Tuesday, also is considering a residency requirement that says applicants must be willing to reside in the county within six months of their hiring. The manager position will be publicly advertised after the committee briefs the council on its plan at the Jan. 26 council meeting.


By Jennifer Learn-Andes


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