Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton said he voluntarily keeps council and the public informed of all pay raises, job creations and other staff changes in his monthly online personnel report.
That’s not enough, according to several council members who are pushing for an ordinance requiring the manager to provide more advance notice.
The ordinance is slated to be introduced at tonight’s council meeting.
Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck originally proposed an ordinance requiring the administration to seek council approval for any job creations or salaries that deviated from a position listing attached to the county’s budget.
County Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri said that proposal would violate the home rule charter, which prohibits council from interfering with management decisions.
As a compromise, McClosky Houck’s revised proposal stripped out the requirement to obtain council approval but forces the manager to notify council at least five days before he adds positions or increases compensation, though he could ultimately proceed without council’s blessing. This advance notice is better than an after-the-fact report, she said.
“It forces the manager to justify what he is doing in terms of staff changes. Salary changes won’t just be put on a website and buried some place. They will be brought to council as notification and made public,” McClosky Houck said.
While the manager must work within the current budget, council has a right to be notified of salary increases that could impact future budgets, she said. Council adopts budgets under home rule.
The ordinance appears to have majority support on council, though some council members expressed concerns when the proposal was publicly discussed last month.
Former Councilwoman Elaine Maddon Curry said home rule separated the powers of council and the manager, and she said council seemed to be inching into questionable territory.
Councilman Rick Williams also questioned if the change was adding an unnecessary burden on the administration.
“I’m not interested in micromanaging the manager — this manager or any future manager,” Williams said.
Councilman Harry Haas said he didn’t believe the ordinance violated the spirit of the charter and asked Lawton if he saw any “red flags” in the proposal.
Lawton did not object to the change, saying he already prepares a personnel report and will provide it to council sooner for the convenience of members.
Councilman Rick Morelli, a charter drafter, said at the December meeting home rule was never meant to prevent council from receiving information.
Council’s push for more notification stemmed in part from citizen complaints about pay increases and positions approved last year.
Lawton has said the changes were part of restructuring that usually included included corresponding position eliminations, resulting in a net salary savings of $234,459 in offices he controls last year.