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Citizens claim charter violations


February 20. 2013 1:11AM
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Some citizens have started a petition asking Luzerne County Controller Walter Griffith to take legal action to force council and the manager to address alleged home rule charter violations.


Griffith said he agrees with the petition assertions but doesn??t know if he can do anything.


He said he may have no more clout than a citizen in court because the charter gives him no special powers to force the manager or council to take any action.


He also said the 2013 budget eliminated his funding for special legal services. He received an allotment of $11,133 for legal services last year and sought $10,000 this year.


??The charter says I can contract for independent legal opinions within budget limitations. My budget limitation this year is zero. I have no money to get an attorney, and if I ask council or the manager for funding to challenge them, I??m sure I won??t get it,? Griffith said.


County Manager Robert Lawton said the county legal office would make a recommendation on any requests from the controller for outside legal services.


??The county manager cannot deny a request that has not yet been made,? Lawton said.


Fairmount Township resident Michael Giamber, a county government watcher who spearheaded the petition, said 15 citizens have signed so far.


Giamber said he and other citizens are frustrated and want to find a way to force the manager and council to honor all charter provisions.


??We??re trying to say it??s not a cafeteria charter, and the charter and its codes are supposed to be law,? said Giamber. ??Start following the law. That??s all we??re asking.?


Council Chairman Tim McGinley said officials have corrected or are addressing most, if not all, of the issues raised in the petition. He said some of the compliance delays stem from the transition to home rule and the adoption of a 2013 budget, the first spending plan prepared from scratch under home rule.


The petition cites 16 examples of alleged charter violations, ranging from temporary management appointments that exceeded the duration permitted by the charter to the manager??s failure to notify council and the controller of a fund transfer within five days.


It also said codes are missing components, including purchasing and acquisition procedures, a standard penalty chart for employees who commit various types of offenses and ??many? personnel procedures and rules.


Personnel policies and procedures from the prior government remain in effect, ??overlapping and often contradicting the charter and personnel code,? the petition said.


McGinley said council and the administration plan to amend codes in coming months.


Lawton has agreed to notify the council and manager of fund transfers and is seeking applications for division head positions that will end reliance on some interim appointees, McGinley said.


Lawton also said the administration is drafting a proposed new purchasing and acquisition policy and other policies.


Where to get petition

Citizens can email petition001@yahoo.com for a copy of the petition and information on how to sign it.





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