Luzerne County Council approves residency requirement for some management

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | March 22nd, 2016 10:08 pm

After weeks of debate, a Luzerne County Council majority voted Tuesday to pass a residency requirement for some management employees hired in the future.

Several revisions were approved Tuesday. The final version requires the top manager, eight division heads, the prison deputy warden and managers who head three departments — Emergency Management, the Sheriff’s Office and 911 — to live in the county within six months of their hiring.

The council added a definition of “principal residence” as the place where an employee votes or intends to remain permanently “for a definite or foreseeable length of time.”

The requirement won’t apply to temporary or interim management as initially proposed, and a grandfather clause applies to existing workers.

Five council members voted against the requirement, with some citing concerns about the potential loss of qualified applicants: Rick Williams, Harry Haas, Eugene Kelleher, Tim McGinley and Linda McClosky Houck.

Some council supporters said the requirement will ensure top managers have a personal investment in the jurisdiction where they are employed through residential property rental or ownership.

County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis presented an annual report loaded with statistics Tuesday, including numbers showing an increase in drunken driving cases.

Her office handled 1,271 DUI cases last year, up from 1,153 in 2014 and 1,094 in 2013.

Overall, the office opened 4,698 new adult criminal cases in 2015, an increase from 4,522 the prior year, she said.

This total does not include DUIs or cases that ended at the magisterial district judge level.

Salavantis said a total 898 people last year applied for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for first-time offenders to get their charges erased from their record. She had reported a total 380 ARD applications in the 2014 report.

The office approved 654 ARD applications in 2015. Another 238 were denied, and six are pending, she said. The office ended up revoking 39 ARDs due to violations.

Salavantis attributed the increase in applicants to the allowance of additional charges, such as possession of a small amount of marijuana.

The office’s child advocacy center assisted 439 juveniles last year, she said. Young crime victims undergo one videotaped forensic interview at the center so they aren’t subjected to repeated, traumatizing inquiries. The 439 juveniles included 246 alleged victims of sexual abuse and 111 of physical abuse.

District attorney’s office spending came in $123,364 under budget last year, she said. The council-approved budget allocated $5.25 million.

In other business Tuesday, a council majority:

• Appointed Sean Ziller to the county ethics commission.

• Introduced ordinances abolishing three outside commissions that have been inactive since at least January 2012, when home rule was implemented. The commissions focused on municipal cooperation, diversity and women.

• Approved two additional awards from the remaining $9,000 in annual natural-gas recreation funding — $4,900 to Fairview Township for playground equipment at Memorial Park and $4,100 to Shickshinny for park rehabilitation.

Another request for $9,000 to Suskie Bassmasters for solar lighting at the Nesbitt Park boat launch in Wilkes-Barre was tabled indefinitely due to a lack of additional available funds.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

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