Last updated: June 26. 2014 5:33PM - 2094 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.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 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 plans to revise the code were temporarily suspended until two citizen seats were filled on the ethics commission.

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 that code 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.

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.

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