Luzerne County Councilman Jim Bobeck was the lone supporter of his movement to oust Edward Brominski as vice chairman Tuesday.
Ten of the 11 council members did not take sides or debate Bobeck’s proposal and instead swiftly supported Eileen Sorokas’ motion to table the matter — indefinitely.
Bobeck proposed replacing Brominski as vice chair at last week’s work session after saying some unidentified council members are impeding home rule’s progress with self-interest, surprise motions and combativeness.
Bobeck had been hoping for support from council Chairman Rick Morelli, but Morelli told council in an email Sunday he would not vote to change the vice chair because it would “result in more disruption to the process.”
Council members who were selected chair and vice chair by council majority vote in January should remain in those leadership posts at least a year, Morelli wrote, noting he would be open to annual votes on a chair and vice chair instead of every two years.
Morelli agreed with Bobeck’s other suggestion to reconsider the chairs of eight council committees.
Brominski, Stephen A. Urban and Kathy Dobash each chaired two committees, while Rick Williams and Bobeck both chaired one.
Saying responsibilities “need to be divided up more evenly,” Morelli designated Harry Haas chair of the real estate/economic development committee headed by Dobash, put Linda McClosky Houck in charge of the budget/finance committee chaired by Brominski and named Stephen J. Urban chair of the correctional services committee that was led by his father, Stephen A. Urban.
Haas announced at the end of Tuesday’s meeting he was respectfully declining the committee chairmanship. He said he can raise issues and effectively contribute without the chairmanship and had not been considered when he originally offered to oversee the committee. Haas also said he doesn’t want to “get in the middle” of a personal and political clash between some of his council colleagues.
Morelli also added a new step in meetings to prevent surprise motions, requiring council to speak up at the start of the meeting if they have any additions to the agenda. There were none Tuesday.
The complaint about surprises stemmed largely from Brominski’s recent failed motion asking county Manager Robert Lawton to resign.
In other business Tuesday, a majority of council voted to confirm Lawton’s nomination of Charleston, S.C., resident Tanis Manseau as operational services division head at $85,000, which means all eight division heads required by home rule are now in place.
Brominski, Dobash and both Urbans voted against the hiring. Brominski asked Manseau Tuesday if he intends to establish residency in the county. Manseau said he plans to purchase a property in the county but first will rent until he becomes more familiar with the area.
Brominski also asked when Manseau plans to become a licensed professional engineer in Pennsylvania. Manseau said he has the designation in South Carolina, and the two states have a reciprocal agreement to provide licensing when an engineer is licensed in one and seeks the credential in the other. Manseau said he does not expect any issues after he fills out an application and pays the licensing fees.
Council also voted Tuesday to:
• Table a vote to purchase the county’s main 911 tower on 0.14 acres atop Penobscot Mountain in Mountain Top for an appraised $112,000 until several questions are answered.
• Allow the owners of the former Techneglas property in Jenkins Township to hold a mandatory public hearing on a request to use real estate tax payments on new construction at the site for infrastructure improvements over a decade. The county and other taxing bodies would have to vote at a future meeting for the tax diversion to take effect under the state’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance, or LERTA, program.
• Keep Northeast Revenue Service LLC as the county’s tax claim operator.
• Appoint former county employee Art Bobbouine to an unpaid seat on the county Transportation Authority.