WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County government has two new top administrators — Chief Public Defender Steven M. Greenwald and Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri.
Ten county council members swiftly and unanimously voted Tuesday night to confirm the two division head nominations made last week by county Manager Robert Lawton.
Councilman Edward Brominski was absent for a personal reason.
Al Flora, who had been overseeing the Public Defender’s Office since 2010, was at the meeting to present his annual report but didn’t stay to witness his replacement. Flora, who had applied for the post, can continue working in the office in a non-union “assistant public defender” position at his current $52,178 salary.
Flora’s pending suit against the county, which argues more employees are need to properly represent the indigent, is slated for trial June 24. Flora’s attorneys issued a public statement Monday strongly advising the council to keep Flora in charge.
Lobbying to keep Flora spilled into the council meeting, with Kingston psychologist Ned Delaney approaching the podium during public comment to endorse Flora.
Delaney said Flora and Greenwald are both “outstanding attorneys and men of integrity,” but he said Flora initiated juvenile justice reforms after the federal corruption scandal.
“Just as you are trying to do things differently, so has he,” Delaney said.
Lawton said Greenwald has a deep understanding of the Public Defender’s Office, where he has worked as an assistant public defender since 1994, handling a wide range of felony and misdemeanor cases.
Greenwald also has handled criminal and civil litigation in private practice since 1985, though he and Pedri will give up their private practice work when they start their new $90,000-a-year administrative positions later this month.
A Kingston resident, Greenwald said he sought the position because he has nearly two decades of experience in the office. His resume said he handled “well over” 2,500 cases as an assistant public defender, including 40 to 50 jury trials.
“I’m excited and happy to be appointed,” Greenwald said after the meeting, adding that he’d like a “smooth transition.”
Pedri, of Butler Township, worked as a county assistant district attorney and deputy district attorney for seven years, participating in more than 40 trials and attaining a 95 percent conviction rate. He also taught college courses.
“I’m honored to be appointed as the county’s first chief solicitor under home rule,” Pedri said. “I’m looking forward to serving the county.”
Council Chairman Tim McGinley told Greenwald and Pedri he believes they are both “very strong candidates.”
“You have a challenge ahead of you. I think you’re the people to step up and meet that challenge,” McGinley said.
Council confirmed the appointment of Richard M. Cardamone as budget and financial services division head last week, and Lawton plans to submit nominations for more of the five remaining home rule division heads to council before the April 23 meeting.
In other business Tuesday, council voted to authorize McGinley to meet with Charles Olah, a county audit committee member who has been using the pseudonym Therman Guamp. McGinley will attempt to find out why the citizen has been using another name and report his findings to council in two weeks.
Councilman Rick Morelli suggested council use its home rule investigatory powers for the first time to obtain the information, but a majority of his colleagues said that might not be necessary.
Councilman Stephen A. Urban also asked McGinley remove the citizen from the audit committee, saying he has been publicly misrepresenting himself.
Kingston resident Brian Shiner said the citizen volunteered to help the county and told council not to “run him through the coals” for using an alias. “Please get on with what’s important here,” Shiner said.
Morelli said he wants a straight answer on the man’s identity and believes council must set standards.
Olah, who attended Tuesday’s meeting but did not publicly speak, said he used another name because his family expressed safety concerns when he started publicly questioning county government activities years ago.