Flood Protection Authority nears choice on director

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

July 26, 2013

The Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority is getting closer to hiring someone to fill an executive director position that’s been vacant for six months, authority Chairman Stephen A. Urban said during a special meeting Friday afternoon.

Authority board members have interviewed seven applicants to date, Urban said.

An engineer executive director is needed because the authority oversees the Wyoming Valley levee system and other flood-control projects. The position will pay at least $70,000.

The authority has been without an executive director since Jim Brozena retired Jan. 11.

The board also voted Friday to authorize solicitor Christopher Cullen to proceed with legal action he deems necessary in an ongoing dispute over the board’s composition.

A county council majority voted last week against an authority-recommended paperwork change that would officially change the authority’s composition to five citizens.

A legal action over the eligibility of three unpaid citizen authority board members is pending in court, and a court hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday.

Urban said the conversion to five citizens is necessary because the home rule charter prohibited county employees from serving on most county authorities and boards. The charter specified employees to serve on a few boards, such as the retirement board and ethics commission, but not the flood authority.

But Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck has argued the charter also allowed for exceptions that are not expressly stated in the charter. Some council members support keeping the original authority structure that includes the county assistant engineer and county planning/zoning director because of their expertise.

Deliberation issue

In other business Friday, Kingston resident Brian Shiner challenged the authority’s lack of public deliberation on the recent selection of Northeast Revenue Service LLC to collect the levee fee for 2013.

Shiner said authority members indicated they discussed the matter in closed-door executive session, and he said discussions about which company should be chosen must be conducted in public. He also noted the board publicly discussed the previous selection of the 2012 levee collector before hiring Northeast Revenue.

Cullen said the only contract discussion in executive session involved the legality of each proposal, which is permissible.

Authority member Kevin O’Brien told Shiner one of the four companies submitted incomplete information in response to a public request for proposals. Northeast Revenue submitted the lowest price of the other three and was considered by all board members to be the “best service provider,” he said.

Urban and Cullen also said Northeast Revenue was hired at a public meeting earlier this month, where public comment was permitted. Authority members offered to provide Shiner with additional written information on the proposals.