Last updated: June 27. 2014 12:14AM - 1736 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com

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A Luzerne County Council committee will revive discussions about altering the county ethics code now that a vacant seat has been filled on the five-person commission that polices the code.

Linda McClosky Houck, who serves on the code revision committee with fellow council members Harry Haas and Jim Bobeck, said Thursday plans to develop code changes temporarily were suspended until two citizen seats were filled on the ethics commission.

The committee wanted input from all commission members on suggested changes before they are formally presented to the full council for its consideration, McClosky Houck said.

Council appointed Plains Township resident Edward J. Klem to the commission this week. He replaces Vito Forlenza, who resigned in April.

Wilkes-Barre resident Theodore Wampole Jr. was appointed to the other citizen seat in March to replace Margaret Hogan.

The county district attorney, controller and manager also serve on the commission, which was created by the home rule charter to fulfill a pledge to crack down on unethical behavior.

Critics have questioned the legality of the code adopted by council because the commission handles both investigations and rulings on alleged violations.

A suggested solution: hiring a rotating panel of outside attorneys to handle initial investigations and recommendations on whether complaints should be dismissed or upgraded to formal complaints heard by the commission.

Council Chairman Rick Morelli, a home rule charter drafter, said earlier this year problems must be rectified because a lack of action by the commission has been a “big disappointment.” A proactive code and commission are needed because “the key to this new government is accountability,” he said.

The commission has not met in months, and commission members have blamed the dismissal of several cases on the wording of the code.

According to a resume supplied by the county, Klem has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.

He held various positions at several state correctional institutions from 1972 until his retirement in 2007, most recently as a superintendent at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy in Frackville. He worked as a superintendent at the State Correctional Institution at Retreat in Hunlock Township from 1999 to 2002.

Klem’s application said he has dealt with conduct and ethical issues in the prison system and also served on committees that developed codes of conduct and ethical standards.

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

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