Friday, July 25, 2014

Citizen to join ethics commission

March 30. 2014 11:06PM

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Wilkes-Barre resident Theodore Wampole Jr. was chosen last week as one of two citizens on the Luzerne County Ethics Commission.

Citizen Vito Forlenza also serves along with the county manager, district attorney and controller. Five of 11 County Council members had supported nominating citizen Margaret Hogan for reappointment.

Wampole has a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from King’s College and has worked as a lead sales representative at Liberty Mutual Insurance Group in Wilkes-Barre since 1983.

He has volunteered for several community organizations, including the Wilkes-Barre Athletic Association, and served on Wilkes-Barre’s municipal authority, fire civil service commission, redevelopment authority and redistricting committee, his resume says.

• John Pickering, who oversees the county’s road and bridge garage, is serving as interim operational services division head until the county hires an engineer to fill the management post established by home rule, officials say.

• Council Chairman Rick Morelli promised his system of holding work sessions to hash out issues would reduce the need for debate at voting meetings, and last week’s voting meeting was shorter than usual. Morelli had to stop some of his colleagues from discussing non-agenda matters to keep the meeting moving and gaveled down Councilman Stephen A. Urban when he started explaining a proposed county bank that has not yet been brought before council.

• Citizen Ed Chesnovitch told council last week the county is losing numerous qualified employees, and he asked county Manager Robert Lawton if he attended a recent training seminar that Lawton set up for management employees.

“I’m not permitted to speak unless I’m addressed by a member of the council,” Lawton said.

Though Lawton didn’t cite the origin of this directive, council members said he was responding to a recent email from Councilwoman Kathy Dobash.

In the email to Morelli, Dobash said she believes the manager “answers to council.”

“I also believe the manager should stay quiet at county council meetings until he is asked a question. He is not a member of the council and should give the elected members of council more respect. He does not direct our meetings,” she wrote.

Morelli asked Lawton if he’d like to answer Chesnovitch’s question, and Lawton said he attended the training session.

• The podium was moved to the side at last week’s council meeting in response to complaints its positioning blocked audience views of council members and forced speakers to turn their backs to the audience. Kingston resident Brian Shiner thanked Councilman Harry Haas for requesting it be moved, though Morelli said he had already planned to do so.

“The contention that’s arisen over the placement of this piece of furniture would bring new meaning to Theodore Roosevelt’s expression, bully pulpit,” Shiner said.

• Four council committees will meet starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council meeting room at the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre. The operational services committee will revive discussion about a proposed county zoning change allowing backyard chickens because committee Chairman Rick Williams was absent from the prior meeting when the committee was tied on advancing the issue to the full council for its consideration.

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