Luzerne County Councilman Stephen A. Urban’s potential run for county controller this year came up during last week’s county council meeting.
Larksville resident Renee Ciaruffoli-Taffera, who has declared her candidacy as a Democratic contender for county council, raised the issue during public comment, advising council to start researching how his council post would be filled if he runs for controller and wins in November.
Ciaruffoli-Taffera said the charter discusses how to fill a vacancy but does not describe the “process.”
Urban, a former commissioner and Democrat, did not say if he plans to run for controller, though political insiders say a nomination petition seeking the necessary signatures to get on the ballot is circulating on his behalf.
Incumbent Republican Walter Griffith plans to run, and it remains to be seen if charges will be filed against him based on the county district attorney’s public statements that Griffith illegally recorded people. District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said the state Attorney General’s Office is investigating Griffith, though he has maintained he is innocent.
Urban’s council seat does not expire until the end of 2015.
* A log in the county election office shows which potential candidates picked up nomination petition packets for various offices, and Urban did not sign up for a county controller packet.
However, a packet for county council, which also could be used in the county controller race, was picked up by “Steve Urban” — no middle initial.
In addition to Griffith, the following people signed up for county controller petition packets to date: Andrew Salko, John Bolin and Karen Ceppa-Hirko. It should be noted these people may be picking up packets for others. Griffith is the only county resident who has declared plans to run for controller.
* Here’s a synopsis of what the home rule charter says about filling a vacant county council, controller or district attorney elected seat:
A majority of council must publicly pass a resolution declaring the vacancy. If they fail to do so, any resident can file a court action asking a judge to determine if a vacancy exists.
A council majority must then vote on a resolution filling the vacant post within 60 days of the vacancy declaration.
If council fails to do so, the council clerk, within five days after the 60 days, must file a request with the county Court of Common Pleas asking judges to fill the post. A majority of county judges must select someone within 30 days of this request.
The replacement person must be the same political party as the person who left.
If the vacancy occurs during the first 18 months of a term — which wouldn’t apply in Urban’s case — the appointee serves until the voters choose someone in the next municipal election.
* Wilkes-Barre Township Republican Alex Milanes also has announced plans to run for one of the five county council seats up for grabs this year. Three other Republicans have announced plans to run: Hazleton resident Kathy Dobash and incumbent councilmen Harry Haas and Eugene Kelleher.
The declared Democrat council contenders to date: Ciaruffoli-Taffera, incumbent Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck and Wilkes-Barre resident Eileen Sorokas.
The roster of candidates for all offices will be available March 12, the last day to circulate and file nomination petitions.
* Luzerne County Council has called a special meeting at 5 p.m. today to vote on a temporary lease allowing the Kingston senior center to remain at 680 Wyoming Ave. until the county finds a new location. The property owner has leased the property to Towson Realty LLC, which has agreed to sublease space to the county for the senior center for $6,000 per month from March 1 through May 31. State funding covers the lease amount.
* Monday’s council meeting will be the first in the refinished county meeting room on the first floor of the courthouse.
* The county’s new recreational facilities advisory board will hold its first meeting at 5:30 p.m. today in the council meeting room. The board will focus on ways to support county-owned recreational facilities, including Moon Lake Park in Plymouth Township, the Seven Tubs Nature Area in Plains Township, the Forty Fort Recreational Complex and the Wilkes-Barre River Common recreational area along the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre.
* The county Prothonotary’s Office is hosting a special passport event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the county courthouse to provide information on the application process and accept applications. Call 825-1770 for more information.
* County Manager Robert Lawton told council he expects to receive funding to complete a new five-year county plan analyzing county operations and identifying suggested savings.