WILKES-BARRE — With two vacancies yet to be filled on the Luzerne County Board of Elections, board members want members of the public to know they can petition Luzerne County Court to fill the vacancies.
Addressing the board during its Tuesday meeting, county resident Ed Chesnovitch asked where the appointment issue stood because it seemed important that the board have a full complement of five members before the May 20 primary election.
Board Chairman H. Jeremy Packard said the five-member board has been without two members for two and a half months and noted that if one board member is sick and can’t attend a meeting, the board can’t conduct business because a three-member quorum is needed to do so.
Packard said the county home rule charter requires council to make appointments to expired terms within 60 days of the expiration. He sent a letter to County Council Chairman Rick Morelli requesting appointments, but he received no response.
Chesnovitch said interested candidates attended a meeting of council’s Authority, Boards and Commissions Committee, but no one was interviewed.
According to the charter: “If county council fails to do so, any resident of Luzerne County may petition the Court of Common Pleas to … fill the vacancy. In such case, the court, by a majority vote of its members, shall … fill the vacancy within 30 days after receiving such petition.”
The exact date of the expiration of terms for the two board members is in question, “but the time for council to fill these vacancies is either long past or soon will be past,” the board said in a news release issued Wednesday.
The bureau website lists Jan. 24 as the date that the terms of Barbara Williams and John Newman expired, but Williams, who sat in the audience for the meeting, said that was the date she was sworn in, not her date of appointment. She is interested in serving another term and was interviewed in December.
Solicitor Mike Butera believes terms run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
Board Vice Chairman Tom Baldino said he believes any county resident can petition the court by submitting a one-paragraph letter to President Judge Thomas Burke asking that the court fill a vacancy, specifying whether the vacancy is for a Democrat or Republican.
The board must consist of two appointed Democrats, two appointed Republicans and a fifth person appointed by the other four members. The fifth person is to serve as board chairman.
According to the news release, any resident who petitions the court must meet criteria in Paragraphs E and H of Section 8.04 of the Charter, including no holding of a political office; being registered as a voter for the correct party for the vacant position (Democrat or Republican — both are open); no business dealings with the county, etc.
Reached Tuesday night, Morelli said he expects council to fill the vacancies at council’s next voting meeting in two weeks.