KINGSTON — Two Luzerne County Transportation Authority staffers were awarded $4,500 in bonuses Tuesday for their work on state investigations into so-called “ghost riders.”
After a two-hour closed-door session on personnel issues, the authority board began a half-hour meeting, during which the last order of business was to award a $2,500 bonus to Internet Technology Director Joe Roselle and a $2,000 bonus to Operations Road Supervisor Lee Horton.
Personnel Committee Chairman Robert Chepalonis made a motion to award the “one-time” bonuses “for the extra work done for the Attorney General and the (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) investigation.” Sid Halsor made a second and the board approved unanimously.
County Councilman Edward Brominski said back in July 2013 that he asked the state attorney general to investigate if senior citizens ridership numbers the LCTA reported to the state were inflated on purpose for years in order to get larger amounts of state reimbursement.
Brominski brought the allegations to light a year earlier, saying bus drivers told him they were told to manually record extra senior citizens, who ride for free. Paying riders are recorded automatically, but drivers have to push a button to record a senior passenger.
PennDOT investigated the allegations and in January announced it would withhold nearly $2.7 million in operating funds from the authority, citing years of inflated reporting of senior citizen ridership numbers.
Brominski told state Attorney General Kathleen Kane the authority has repeatedly denied the numbers were purposefully inflated. Authority board member Patrick Conway has confirmed that a grand jury was convened to investigate the authority.
Licata said the bonuses paid to Roselle and Horton are “a result of all the extra work that’s been placed on them in regards to the ridership issues and the attorney general investigation.”
“As a board, we would just like to show you the debt of gratitude we have for all the extra time and effort that you two gentlemen have been putting in to help this board and this agency accomplish and do all the duties it has to do in regard to those issues,” he told them.
Licata also apologized to LCTA staff and members of the media for the length of the executive session on personnel issues, which they were not allowed to attend. “There were a number of issues we had to discuss in that session and that’s why it took so long,” he said.
During his solicitor’s report, attorney Joe Blazosek said the human relations director, the executive director and other managerial and administrative staff provided input on “ongoing” personnel matters.
“The board continues to review personnel issues that from time to time arise, and appropriate action at later points will be taken once further matters are investigated,” Blazosek said.
After the meeting, Blazosek did say some matters related to employee discipline, but he could not disclose specifics.