Thursday, July 10, 2014





Opinions on county manager vary widely as evaluation nears


March 24. 2013 11:29PM

By - jandes@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6388






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Luzerne County Council members received anonymously submitted feedback from 12 people on county Manager Robert Lawton’s performance that they can use as input in their first annual manager evaluation.


The evaluators, which included some managers, offered a range of opinions on Lawton’s strengths and weaknesses and suggestions and advice. The range of observations ran from highly positive to dissatisfaction, with descriptions that he is “excellent” and “extremely knowledgeable” to a “good talker and lousy manager.”


Council Chairman Tim McGinley said council members must discuss whether they want to evaluate Lawton individually or as a group.


Council won’t be issuing a public report card as a group because the manager’s performance evaluation falls under closed-door personnel.


A majority of council has publicly expressed overall satisfaction with Lawton’s performance to date.


Lawton does not have a contract guaranteeing his employment for a set period, and the home rule charter requires seven of 11 council votes to terminate a county manager.


The translation: A county manager won’t be fired as long as five council members choose to keep a manager.


* McGinley announced during last week’s meeting that Councilman Harry Haas and his wife had a baby girl.


* Councilman Rick Morelli sparked a discussion Tuesday on how council will fill vacant council seats. Morelli said he raised the issue because Councilman Stephen A. Urban’s seat would be vacated if he wins the race for county controller, and Morelli doesn’t want any “surprises.”


Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck said a procedure to fill seats is already included in the home rule charter and council’s administrative code.


The charter says a council majority must vote on a resolution filling the vacant post within 60 days of the vacancy declaration. It’s unclear if Urban would resign immediately after the Nov. 5 election or the first Monday in January, which is the day controller and council winners officially take office.


Appointees to vacant council seats must be the same political party as the person who left.


The administrative code says council must publicly advertise the vacancy and set a date for applications to be received by council.


Council would have to decide how the selection process unfolds after that, including whether applicants would be publicly interviewed.


* Controller Walter Griffith, who is running for re-election, said he thought the discussion about filling Urban’s seat was premature because Urban still has to beat his Democratic opponent, Michelle Bednar, in the primary and then win in the general.


Griffith is running against Karen Ceppa-Hirko for the Republican controller nomination on May 21.


* On the subject of elections, the list of Republicans and Democrats who filed nomination petitions in all municipal, school and county races has been posted on the election bureau page of the county’s website, www.luzernecounty.org. Click on “departments” to reach the election link.


Candidates have until Wednesday to withdraw their names from the ballot.


* Councilman Edward Brominski said Tuesday he does not believe employee overtime should be included in payroll totals used to calculate employees’ retirement benefits.


Urban said the practice is required by the state pension law and said county officials should push the state legislators to change the law.


* The county’s administrative code calls for a two-month report on expenditures and revenue.


Lawton presented data from the county’s outgoing financial software system, saying he will present more useful year-to-date analysis in his first-quarter financial report in May.


Councilman Rick Williams questioned the value of a two-month report without context.


“This is a horrible report,” he said.




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