Luzerne County Council chairperson says travel decision for manager candidate must wait until Feb. 22

Luzerne County Council Chairwoman Kendra Radle advised the county executive’s search committee on Wednesday that it should not arrange travel for candidates to come here for interviews until the council votes publicly. on the request for funding for the committee’s trip on February 22.

The search committee had suggested bringing in four out-of-town candidates on Feb. 20, interviewing them on Feb. 21, and then deciding its final recommendations to council that evening, according to committee communications. He also proposed to the council to immediately interview the non-local candidates on February 22 while they are still here.

Radle told committee chair Chris Hackett that she doesn’t believe the timeline is workable because the board won’t vote on the travel request until its vote meeting on the night of Feb. 22. The board usually discusses the issues at a working session and then votes at a subsequent meeting. Encounter.

Hackett can publicly explain the committee’s idea of ​​holding back-to-back interviews during the board’s business session this Tuesday when it presents the nominee travel funding request, Radle said.

“I understand this issue is of the utmost importance, but until this funding is voted on in a public meeting, no travel should be arranged as we will not know the outcome of the vote,” Radle said. .

The board has also yet to publicly discuss how it plans to conduct its own interviews and assessments after the search committee completes the rule of origin charter requirement to recommend candidates for board review.

Once the citizens’ committee has provided its list, the selection process is entirely in the hands of council members to conduct their own independent review of the recommended candidates.

It took almost a month for the board to complete its due diligence during the last search in 2016, as it had to agree on its rating and evaluation system and interview questions, conduct the interviews and conduct reviews. other due diligence.

This is the senior position in county government, and the selected individual must oversee day-to-day operations, personnel, budget, and a myriad of other administrative matters.

Hackett said he will appear before the board at its business meeting on Tuesday to seek an additional $10,000 stipend, including $6,000 to cover the expenses of candidates traveling here for interviews.

Committee members said they were not comfortable recommending top-ranked candidates without meeting them in person.

Committee member Rick Morelli was the lone dissenter, saying he believed the committee could get enough information about candidates’ qualifications in a second remote interview, if necessary, and leave it to the board. to conduct interviews in person.

Morelli took his position to another level on Wednesday, saying he was already confident that the five top-ranked nominees deserved to be recommended to the board, pending the results of background checks. He said all five have significant experience in municipal management.

“Each of them has different pros and cons. Let the board decide that. I think the key is not to weed out more candidates or persuade the board of the way forward. In the end, it’s It’s the board’s job, and they’ll be responsible for the decision – not us,” Morelli said.

Morelli said he also sent an email warning the committee against scheduling out-of-town interviews ahead of council votes on Feb. 22.

“I’ve spoken to some board members about the process of spending money to fly candidates to us, and I know some board members have concerns,” Morelli said. “It needs to be aired”

The county charter, which required the Citizens Search Committee, states that the committee “shall recommend those applicants it deems to be the most qualified to the county council for consideration.”

At the end of the board, the charter stated that the manager should be appointed “on the basis of his executive ability and administrative qualifications, evidenced by professional preparation, training and experience in public administration, finance and/or or other areas that demonstrate substantial ability to perform the duties of department head.” A bachelor’s degree and at least five years of relevant work experience are also required.

The February 22 council meeting is also noteworthy because the council is expected to appoint a Republican to fill the council seat vacated by Walter Griffith now that he is comptroller. Until this seat is filled, the council is reduced to 10 members.

Seven of the board’s 11 votes – a majority plus one – are required to hire the manager.

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