Linda McClosky Houck and some of her Luzerne County Council colleagues spent many hours publicly grilling applicants for board and authority seats during the first two years of the home rule government, and she believes it was a worthwhile effort.
But Councilman Edward Brominski, who now heads the committee overseeing authority and board matters since he replaced McClosky Houck as council vice chair this year, questions the value of individually interviewing each applicant, saying a review of their resumes may be enough.
The issue came up during the authorities/boards/commissions committee meeting Tuesday.
Public interviewing was part of council’s efforts to select applicants based on qualifications and shed the image citizens had to be politically connected to have a shot at serving. Most of the seats are unpaid.
McClosky Houck said the interviews allowed applicants to expand on their qualifications and interests while answering several basic questions. People willing to volunteer their time to serve deserve a chance to be heard, she said, adding that the process has resulted in the selection of “some very good people.”
“I’d hate to be selected for a job solely based on what’s on paper,” she said.
Brominski agreed with the caliber of many appointees but said council also has selected “a number of flops” despite in-person interviews. He said he would have no problem with someone choosing him based on his resume.
“I can learn a lot from a person’s resume,” he said.
Committee member Harry Haas proposed cancelling some other committee meetings next month to free up time for that committee to conduct face-to-face interviews, saying it would provide all applicants a “fair shake.”
The committee did not vote on changing the procedure or scheduling more interviews. The committee shares information on the interviews with the full council, which makes the final selection.
Council Chairman Rick Morelli, who is not on the committee, said he believes the committee should “dig deeper” and not rely solely on resumes.
Jackson Township resident Ed Chesnovitch urged the committee to keep in-depth public interviewing, saying a recent public session to review applicants was a “non-interview” because applicants remained in their seats with audience members and were not individually questioned or introduced.
Kingston resident Brian Shiner said Brominski’s question whether board applicants were property owners was “prejudicial” because property ownership is not a requirement to serve. Brominski said he made it clear property ownership was not a qualifying factor but believes it’s a valid question.
Wilkes-Barre Township resident Bob Caruso, a political consultant who has monitored county elections for decades, advised the committee to carefully weigh applicants for two vacant seats on the five-member election board.
Caruso challenged the expertise of current members and said the board does not meet regularly to allow public input on election concerns. He advised council to pick members who understand the voting process and are willing to speak up if they see concerns.