Nearly a year and a half after the implementation of the home rule form of government, Luzerne County officials are starting to address leadership changes in former row offices.
Home rule eliminated the elected county sheriff, recorder of deeds, coroner, prothonotary, clerk of courts, register of wills and treasurer to give the administration freedom to decide how their duties are covered.
The administration is relying on temporary appointees — four row officer deputies and the county security director — to run these offices.
The county’s new Judicial Services and Records Division Head Joan Hoggarth said Monday the following restructuring plan is in the works:
• The county soon will seek one manager to oversee both the prothonotary and clerk of courts offices because separate directors of each office aren’t needed.
• The deeds and wills offices also will merge under one director, and that position will be advertised shortly.
• When these two management positions are filled as early as next month after a public search, the long-standing deputy director positions in all four offices will be permanently stripped from the budget.
• The sheriff and coroner posts will be publicly advertised. The sheriff’s office has no deputy, but Hoggarth plans to eliminate the $42,500 chief deputy coroner position, now filled by William Lisman, after a coroner is hired.
Hoggarth said the plan will save money, but the amount will depend on the salaries of the four advertised positions, which haven’t been finalized.
The eliminated row officer salaries already were removed from the 2013 budget, except the prothonotary — $36,562 — and register of wills — $38,562.
Prothonotary Carolee Medico Olenginski and Register of Wills Dorothy Stankovic are not at work but must be paid until their terms expire the end of the year. County Manager Robert Lawton had instructed Medico Olenginski to stay home on Sept. 14, and Stankovic stopped coming to work in February after her office moved into the courthouse annex to be housed with deeds.
The budgeted salaries of the deputy row office posts that will be eliminated total $108,830: deeds, $41,200; prothonotary, $36,050; and wills, $31,580.
The deputy clerk of courts post wasn’t budgeted in 2013 because it has been vacant since Tom Pizano retired last year.
In addition to the deputy coroner post, two of the deputy positions slated for elimination are filled — Donald Williamson, wills, and Arthur Bobbouine, prothonotary. Hoggarth was deputy recorder of deeds until her recent promotion.
The hiring process
County Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri and Hoggarth said the employees who have been filling in as interim directors are free to apply for the management positions, but they stressed the selection will be determined through a hiring process outlined in the personnel code.
The county must act on filling the posts because the home rule charter says employees can’t be in provisional positions for more than nine months in any 12-month period, Pedri said.
That deadline has been exceeded in several cases:
• Lisman has been overseeing the coroner’s office since the last elected coroner John Corcoran’s term expired the start of 2012.
• Security Director John Robshaw has been interim sheriff since prior sheriff John Gilligan was informed his services were no longer needed in February 2012.
• Bobbouine was assigned to temporarily oversee the prothonotary and clerk of courts offices in September 2012.
Hoggarth designated Williamson as interim director of the wills and deeds offices last week.
Treasurer’s Office Deputy Dominick DePolo, who receives $43,502, also has been serving as acting treasurer since the late Mike Morreale’s term as elected treasurer ended with home rule. The treasurer’s office is in the budget and financial services division under home rule.
Pedri said Lawton plans to address the status of the treasurer’s position when a new budget and financial services division head is hired. The prior division head, Richard Cardamone, resigned effective June 6 after several weeks on the job to accept a position outside the region.