Luzerne County Council’s involvement in the selection of eight division heads was debated during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Councilman Rick Morelli sent an email to Chairman Tim McGinley last week saying he expects council to have “as much information as possible on all the candidates with at least a week’s notice.”
County Manager Robert Lawton had planned to present a prospective budget/finance division head to council for its confirmation at Tuesday’s meeting but said he had to cancel that plan because he was unable to meet the requested one-week notice.
Council called a special meeting on April 2 to vote on the budget/finance confirmation. Lawton also is expected to present candidates for one or two other division head slots at this meeting.
Kingston resident Therman Guamp, who is on a panel that interviewed and recommended budget/finance division head applicants to Lawton, said the position is crucial to the county and questioned why council needs seven days of notice. Guamp said some council members are slowing down the appointment process when the person hired will handle county financial reports being demanded by council.
Councilman Eugene Kelleher said council never voted to require a week’s notice and said he has “full confidence” the interview committees and Lawton will recommend the best candidates. He compared the process to school districts, saying he believes principals and school administrators — not school boards — should select teachers who are hired.
“If Bob doesn’t hire somebody who is good, then we need to get rid of Bob,” Kelleher said.
Morelli said he has no idea who is on the interview panels and said the division heads will remain if Lawton leaves.
“They’re very important people, and they have a lot of power,” Morelli said, arguing council must provide “checks and balances” on the manager.
Lawton said the division head positions were widely advertised and are not being interviewed by him unless a panel of at least four professionals with experience in that field recommend them. He said he will present a detailed packet on each person he’s recommending for confirmation and a description of the selection process.
Candidates he recommends also will be asked to attend the council meeting scheduled for their confirmation, he said.
Lawton said his tenure “will depend greatly” on the division heads’ success.
“There’s an incentive for the manager to choose the best,” Lawton said, noting he will restart the interview process if council rejects his selection.
Councilwoman Elaine Maddon Curry said she doesn’t believe council should be heavily involved in dissecting the interview process because the manager would be a “fool” not to recommend the top applicant.
Councilman Edward Brominski said council isn’t slowing up the selection because the manager could have recommended division heads for hire a year ago.
Maddon Curry said division head salaries weren’t included in the 2012 budget.
“Don’t give me that money-in-the-budget baloney,” Brominski told her.
“Everything doesn’t have to be so contentious, and I resent the way you’re talking to me,” she replied.
McGinley said information on the candidates recommended for April 2 confirmation will be presented to council next Tuesday, or seven days before the meeting. The information also will be posted on the county’s website, www.luzernecounty.org, he said.