November 20, 2012
Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton is urging county residents to take advantage of tonight‚??s forum to express their views to him.
‚??This is an opportunity required under the home rule charter to give 320,000 people who live in the county the chance to come forward and share their ideas and thoughts for the future with the appointed county manager,‚?Ě Lawton said.
He believes the forum requirement was added to the charter, which took effect the start of this year, to ensure a connection between the manager and public.
‚??I think they assumed the manager was somewhat going to be distant and remote from county residents,‚?Ě he said.
Lawton hears some public feedback by attending council meetings, but said the workload since he started work as the first non-interim manager in February has limited his ability to travel throughout the 890-square-mile county, which has 76 municipalities.
‚??I hope for the widest possible cross section of people at the forum. It would be a great opportunity for the manager to learn more about different areas of the county and concerns of those residents,‚?Ě Lawton said.
Lawton said he tries to make himself accessible to citizens who call or approach him at the supermarket but said the forum mandate sets up a necessary procedure.
‚??It‚??s an important reminder that the manager works for the people,‚?Ě Lawton said.
He doesn‚??t plan a particular agenda or time limit unless one becomes necessary because of a particularly large turnout.
The charter says at least one public forum must be held annually to provide a ‚??reasonable opportunity‚?Ě for the public to offer comments and suggestions directly to the manager.
Home rule replaced the three elected commissioners with an appointed manager and part-time, 11-member council.
Lawton, who receives $110,000, handles day-to-day operations, including personnel decisions, in departments that are not controlled by the court, controller or district attorney. Council approval is required only for the manager‚??s appointments to eight division head positions.
The manager also oversees purchasing decisions and doesn‚??t need council approval unless contracts would cost the county $25,000 in any future year or $75,000 in two or more future years.
Council members are paid $8,000 per year and handle appointments to outside boards and approval of the county budget, tax rate, union contracts and policies. Council also selects the manager.
The manager‚??s public forum starts at 6 p.m. today in the council meeting room on the first floor of the county courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.