Three applications for Luzerne County manager filed as deadline nears

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | February 26th, 2016 6:26 pm

Luzerne County’s citizen manager search committee has received three applications for the county’s top leadership position, with only one more week left for applicants to submit resumes.

The county received 72 applications the last time the position was advertised in 2011, shortly before the January 2012 implementation of the customized home rule government.

Citizen Charles Olah urged the committee Friday to consider re-advertising the position if it does not receive a “sufficient” number of applicants.

Committee Chairman Michael Giamber said the group has widely advertised the position locally and nationally, including notices through a myriad of online job sites and the International City/County Management Association and County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

“We’re hoping people are waiting until the last week,” Giamber said.

The committee never established a minimum number of applications it would require to proceed, he said.

“We intended to get a lot of applications,” he said.

Required by home rule, the committee must recommend three manager finalists to the council, which makes the final hiring selection.

The committee started advertising the position Feb. 5, and resumes are due March 4.

Committee member Gerard O’Donnell said he won’t support forwarding three finalists if he doesn’t “truly believe” all three would excel in the position.

“I’m not of the mindset of saying, ‘Serve them up, and you’re done,’” O’Donnell said.

Olah said the committee should not be stuck selecting the “best of the worse.” The committee has worked hard to seek qualified applicants while “swimming against the tide” of the county’s “bad reputation,” he said, referring to the past corruption probe and other county scandals.

The council’s consideration of a county residency requirement for managers also may be a “deterrent” to some executives who live or may want to live outside the county line, Olah said.

Some other challenges:

• The new manager must wrestle with a county deficit pegged at $16.9 million at the end of 2014, an outstanding debt obligation of $321 million and other fiscal obstacles.

• The committee has questioned if a push to study a possible change in the home rule government would deter applicants who are concerned the manager position will be eliminated or switched to an elected post in several years.

• The application process is more grueling this time around because committee members are following federal management recruitment standards by requiring applicants to provide concrete examples or evidence of how they have met specific skills required for the position, including experience with procurement, collective bargaining agreements and implementing changes.

• The position is advertised at an unusually broad salary range — $96,564 to $175,571 — because the county council unanimously decided to stick with the compensation wording in the home rule charter. The charter says the salary can’t exceed the elected district attorney’s compensation — currently $175,571 — or be less than 55 percent of the district attorney’s salary.

The county council had budgeted $160,000 for the manager compensation in 2016. Prior manager Robert Lawton, who was hired in February 2012 and resigned the end of last year, had received $110,000.

Citizen Walter Griffith said it’s “critical” the committee present the “best it can get” to the council after exhausting all options, which means additional recruitment may be required.

“You told council you’d give them the top three, not the only three,” citizen Brian Shiner said.

The manager job posting may be viewed at Online surveys also have been posted on the county site for residents and workers to provide feedback on what they want from the next manager.

The committee — which also includes Carmen Ambrosino, Christopher Slusser and Gene A. Camoni — had tentatively planned to identify three finalists in April.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

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