Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton will soon assemble his top management team with the hiring of eight division heads established by the home rule charter.
Though interim appointees have been designated for some positions since home rule took effect almost a year ago, permanent placements were put on hold because division head salaries weren't added to this year's budget.
Lawton said he will launch a national search immediately after council approves the 2013 budget, which is expected to happen Tuesday. He said he couldn't act before that because the budget establishes the maximum salaries for the positions.
The division head positions, along with his proposed salaries and departments under their supervision:
• Correctional services, $75,000 – prison system and juvenile detention, or the holding of juveniles while they await a hearing before a judge.
• Budget and financial services, $75,000 – financial administration and property assessment.
• Judicial services and records, $75,000 – civil and criminal court records and the coroner, deeds, wills and sheriff offices.
• Human services, $75,000 -- children and youth, adult care and welfare, drug and alcohol, mental health and veteran affairs.
• Administrative services, $75,000 -- personnel, purchasing, information technology, voter services, licensing and permits, records maintenance, grant writing, community development and tourist promotion.
• Operational services, $85,000 – engineering, roads and bridges, recreation, solid waste/recycling, planning/zoning, emergency management, 911, building and grounds and security.
• Chief solicitor and public defender, $90,000 each. The attorneys hired must be full-time with no outside legal practices.
The new correctional services head will replace the warden position now held by Joseph Piazza, who is retiring Dec. 31. Prison Deputy Warden James Larson likely will serve as acting warden after Piazza's departure until the division head position is filled, Lawton said.
Lawton said he provided draft division head job descriptions to council Tuesday to support the requested salaries. Council confirmation is required for division head hirings.
The manager said he will advertise locally, nationally and with applicable trade associations, including the Pennsylvania County Commissioners' Association.
He also discussed the positions with the executive director of the International City/County Management Association, or ICMA, which has a job opening section on its website that attracts professional public managers in all disciplines throughout the country, he said.
The charter says the manager must base the division head appointments on abilities and qualifications as demonstrated by professional preparation, training and/or relevant experience. These individuals shall serve at the pleasure of the county manager, the charter says.
Lawton said the human resources department will screen all applications and weed out applicants who don't meet minimum education and experience requirements.
He plans to designate a panel – he's still working on the structure – to interview applicants and make recommendations to him.
Lawton said he would then use the panel ranking as a guide to select applicants who will advance to an interview before him.
County employees will be encouraged to apply, he said, noting existing employment won't be a barrier to consideration but won't ensure special treatment.
Lawton said he looks forward to the appointments.
We've made a lot of progress this year with the dedicated staff we have, but we'll make significantly more progress next year with these additional resources, he said.
Chief Public Defender Al Flora told council this week that he plans to apply for the public defender division head position because he is winding down his private practice.
County Solicitor Vito DeLuca has told council the county may not attract a large number of applicants for the chief solicitor post at $90,000 because of the ban on outside legal practices.
The home rule transition committee had advertised the division head positions before home rule took effect and received about 175 applications at that time, with the most – 41 – for administrative services and only eight for the solicitor post.
Three of the divisions are handled by interim appointees -- Mary Dysleski, human services; Joan Hoggarth, judicial services; and Vic Mazziotti, budget and finance.