Friday, July 11, 2014





County questioned on hiring, bonding


March 17. 2013 3:08AM

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




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Luzerne County Councilman Edward Brominski fired off several complaints during Tuesday's council meeting.


The former county commissioner questioned if a senior accountant position being advertised was included in the 2013 budget.


County Manager Robert Lawton said the position was not in the job listing attached to the budget, but the salary of up to $45,000 will be covered by some of the budgeted funds earmarked for accounting services.


Brominski also said he received multiple phone calls and emails from non-union employees who haven't received raises in several years. These employees are receiving $1,000 bonuses and took a little bit of offense to $3,000 raises the county retirement board recently granted to two retirement division employees, he said.


They asked me to convey to the members of the retirement board their appreciation, Brominski said.


Councilman Eugene Kelleher, one of the retirement board members, said the pension coordinator is handling additional board secretary duties that had been assigned to the county controller before home rule, and the controller had received an additional $5,000 for the work.


The solicitor pay was increased from $12,000 to $15,000 because the attorney had received $20,000 before home rule, he said. The solicitor is no longer eligible for health benefits and can't charge the county for travel.


Bonding for manager

Brominski also raised questions about the bonding for Lawton before the manager was hired in February 2012. Bonding is required for many government employees who handle or make decisions about the spending of public funds.


Brominski questioned why home rule transition consultant Ken Mohr was copied on documents about the bonding, why only some council members had received information about Lawton's bonding and why interim county manager Tom Pribula was bonded for $2 million instead of the $1 million coverage for Lawton.


He also said Platte River Insurance Co. recently informed the county it is canceling Lawton's bond after its expiration Feb. 28.


Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck said the administration informed her Platte River is no longer writing that type of insurance.


Councilman Jim Bobeck said Mohr was involved in the manager recruitment process before county council took office and continued to provide home rule transition assistance for no additional pay after home rule's initial implementation in January 2012.


Bobeck said the $1 million was deemed sufficient by the county's insurance consultant because Lawton also was covered for up to $500,000 under a blanket liability insurance policy for employees and elected officials. That coverage was increased from $300,000 to $500,000 per person, he said.


Legislation that passed in November 2011 allows counties to determine sufficient bonding amounts for employees and elected officials, Bobeck said, noting the administrative code adopted by council does not specify required bonding amounts.


Lawton said he does not anticipate problems obtaining a new insurance carrier for his next bond.


Council also voted Tuesday to:


• Pay $15,000 to settle litigation filed by a prison inmate. The settlement was recommended because a guard injured the inmate, said county assistant solicitor Stephen Menn. He did not identify the employee but said he was terminated.


• Hire ParenteBeard, Wilkes-Barre, for $104,000 to complete the county's 2012 audit. Two other firms submitted proposals, and council set up an auditing committee to review and rank submissions.


• Forgive $27,061 in back property taxes owed by the Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts for a downtown Hazleton property.




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