Luzerne County Council approves $250,000 settlement with Al Flora

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
Flora -

Former Luzerne County chief public defender Al Flora will receive a $250,000 settlement to end 2013 litigation he filed against the county over his termination, a council majority decided Tuesday.

The county’s insurance carrier will cover $234,000 of the settlement, while the county must pay $16,000, said county Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo.

The county contribution is the remainder owed on its $150,000 deductible, Crocamo said. The deductible threshold was met largely because Flora’s litigation was appealed to the Third Circuit Court, with a portion of the pending case kicked back to federal court, she said, describing the proceedings as “labor intensive.”

Crocamo said the county’s insurer participated in court mediation settlement discussions and approved the $250,000 amount. If council had rejected the settlement, the county would be on the hook for all additional litigation costs and likely would have to pay Flora’s legal fees if he prevailed, she said, estimating that scenario would cost more than $250,000.

Council members Stephen A. Urban, Harry Haas and Linda McClosky Houck voted against the settlement, which was approved by eight members.

Urban said he did not support Flora’s hiring in 2010, when Urban served as a county commissioner before the county’s 2012 conversion to a customized home rule government structure.

“I didn’t believe he was the best qualified candidate at the time, so I’m not going to vote for the settlement either,” Urban said.

Haas said he does not agree with such settlements. Haas, Urban and McClosky Houck also had voted against a $56,000 settlement in March to end Leonard Piazza’s litigation contesting his 2012 termination as county election director.

McClosky Houck said after Tuesday’s meeting she believes the Flora settlement “sends the wrong message.”

Flora could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Capital projects

Council also adopted a capital plan that grants county Manager C. David Pedri’s request for $650,000 to fund the next phase of courthouse restoration but reduced funding for parking lot repairs from $400,000 to $200,000.

Council Chairman Tim McGinley had proposed cutting the parking lot allocation to $300,000, but seven members also supported Council Vice Chairman Eugene Kelleher’s suggestion to take off another $100,000.

The county administration said $200,000 won’t be enough to repair and resurface lots at seven county-owned buildings. Some council members encouraged more in-house repairs, but Pedri said the road and bridge crew is down to eight employees.

A council majority also approved McGinley’s two remaining proposals to reduce a past earmark for vehicle emergencies from $100,000 to $50,000 and increase a building emergency fund from $100,000 to $150,000.

McClosky Houck opposed boosting the emergency fund, saying the administration does not have to seek council permission to spend that funding. Urban, Haas and Councilman Edward Brominski agreed.

With the changes, the county has $864,246 left in the dwindling capital fund to cover future projects.

In other business, a council majority appointed Neal DeAngelo to the board overseeing the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township. The appointment had been tied 5-5 for nominees James Reino and DeAngelo for three meetings in a row due to the absence of a council member each time.

Barry Williams also was appointed to the Luzerne County Community College Board of Trustees.

Flora
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_flora.jpgFlora

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

Fight investigation

Butler Township police are investigating an alleged fight that occurred during a recent fundraiser golf tournament held by Luzerne County’s prison union at the Sand Springs Country Club in Butler Township.

Luzerne County Correctional Services Division Head Mark Rockovich said the tournament was not a county-sponsored event. If any employees are charged and convicted, he said the administration would take action according to the county ethics code.

LIUNA Local 1310, which represents prison corrections officers and other prison staff, held the annual tournament to raise money for Camp Cadet and a charitable foundation in memory of Kristopher Moules, a correctional officer who died at the prison in 2016, Rockovich said.

Butler Township Police Chief Brian Sabatini said no arrests have been made for the fight and officers are still trying to identify the people who were involved.

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

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