First Posted: 3/20/2012
WILKES-BARRE – City Council will vote again this week to appoint former human resources director Christine Jensen to the city's planning commission.
And this time, she's expected to get the nod.
Jensen's name was presented at the last council meeting, but the vote was 2-2. Council Vice Chairman Bill Barrett was absent. Council Chairman Mike Merritt and Councilman George Brown voted for Jensen and council members Tony George and Maureen Lavelle voted against.
Barrett was absent due to an out-of-town medical emergency, he said last week. On Monday, Barrett said he thinks Jensen would be a "great addition" to the planning commission.
"I think she is a very intelligent, educated person who has a lot of knowledge about the city," Barrett said. "She knows what it takes for it to work. I'll leave it at that until Thursday."
George said Barrett is entitled to his opinion.
"And I'm entitled to mine," he said.
Council meets Thursday at 5 p.m. in work session and the regular meeting will immediately follow. The meeting was originally scheduled for March 29, but Barrett requested it be rescheduled because he would not be able to attend on that day. The meeting was switched.
Barrett said his request had nothing to do with Jensen's nomination to the planning commission. He said he rarely misses council meetings and did not want to miss two in a row.
Merritt said the administration decides what items to place on the agenda.
"The Jensen appointment is at the request of the administration," Merritt said. "I didn't have a problem with it."
George said his opinion hasn't changed – he will vote against Jensen's appointment because he feels she lacks the appropriate background.
"Someone from the business sector should be on it," he said.
Linda Urban, a frequent critic of council and the administration, questioned why Jensen is being considered.
"This was a real set-up here," she said "Why are they so intent on appointing (Jensen) to this position?"
Urban said there are plenty of qualified people living in the city – engineers, architects, planners. Jensen works at CareerLink, the state agency that provides access to workforce development and independent living services.
"It's being forced down our throats that this woman is to get that position," Urban said.
Mayor Tom Leighton disagreed and issued a statement saying Jensen was a dedicated 20-year public servant who will be a credit to the planning commission.
Jensen did not return a message for comment.
City Council meets Thursday at 5 p.m. in work session and the regular meeting will immediately follow. Council meets at City Hall, Fourth Floor, Council Chambers. Public comment is allowed at the regular meeting.