A Luzerne County Council majority voted Tuesday to confirm Joan Hoggarth as judicial services and records division head at $70,000, which is $5,000 less than the salary originally proposed by county Manager Robert Lawton.
Several council members had indicated before the meeting that they would not support the nomination at $75,000.
Lawton’s first nominee, Colorado resident Linda A. Coxen, did not receive the required six votes last week. Lawton had proposed a salary of $67,500 for Coxen.
Councilman Stephen A. Urban criticized Lawton’s original $75,000 proposed salary during Tuesday’s meeting, asking Lawton, “Is this a payback to us for not voting for the first nominee?”
Lawton told council Tuesday he believes a $2,500 increase above Coxen’s proposed pay is warranted for Hoggarth because she has a decade of experience working in county government and has been performing as interim division head without a pay increase since September.
Hoggarth also will have a “very short learning curve,” and the county will save $33,000 annually eliminating Hoggarth’s prior position as acting recorder of deeds, Lawton said.
Hoggarth, who is currently paid $41,200, said she appreciates the opportunity. “I look forward to continuing with the foundation I’ve already laid for the division,” she said.
Lawton congratulated Hoggarth after the meeting. “You’re going to do great,” he said.
In addition to Urban, council members Elaine Maddon Curry, Linda McClosky Houck, Eugene Kelleher, Rick Williams, Jim Bobeck and Tim McGinley voted to confirm Hoggarth’s nomination.
Council members Edward Brominski and Stephen J. Urban opposed it.
Councilman Rick Morelli was absent, and Councilman Harry Haas abstained, citing a $100 campaign contribution he had received from selection committee member Jim Haggerty.
The home rule charter created the judicial services and records division to oversee the deeds, wills, sheriff, coroner and civil and criminal court records departments.
One of four finalists
Hoggarth, 49, of Hanover Township, was among four finalists forwarded to Lawton for his consideration by a selection panel.
Brominski questioned Lawton’s decision to submit a second nominee. The manager previously indicated he must restart the selection process “anew” if the initial nominee is rejected by council.
Lawton said his nomination of Hoggarth complies with the charter.
Some council members previously raised concerns about the hiring of an out-of-state resident when area residents are qualified. Lawton told council two of the six division heads hired to date were not county residents. The county residents who are nominated can have “a great deal of pride” they were selected after a national search, he said.