Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton has downgraded the sheriff, coroner and two other managers to temporary status because published job advertisements for their positions wrongly left the impression bachelor’s degrees were required.
If new advertisements attract additional qualified applicants, the administration may start the selection process from scratch, he said.
“We’re doing this to be sure no candidates were overlooked or deterred from applying because of a proof-reading error in the ad,” Lawton said.
The impacted employees are Brian Szumski, who was appointed sheriff last month, and three managers selected by the administration in September: James Haddock, head of the prothonotary and clerk of courts offices; Mary Dysleski, who oversees wills, deeds and marriage licenses and Coroner William Lisman.
Under home rule, the employees were appointed to oversee offices previously governed by elected row officers.
Judicial Services and Records Division Head Joan Hoggarth, who recommended the applicants hired for all four positions, said she sent job descriptions to the human resources department, which then prepared the condensed advertisements.
The job descriptions listed a bachelor’s degree as a minimum qualification for each position but also stated any equivalent combination of education, training and experience could be considered.
But the advertisement said the management-level positions require a minimum of 5-7 years of directly related work experience and a bachelor’s degree.
Szumski and Haddock do not have bachelor’s degrees.
Lawton said he became aware of the advertising concern last week when county Councilman Edward Brominski sent an email questioning Szumski’s qualifications.
“How many qualified people did not apply because of the degree requirement, and how was the selected person selected without the degree requirement?” Brominski wrote.
Lawton said he also requested and reviewed advertisements for the three other positions because they were originally sent for publication as a package and concluded the county must redo ads for all four.
“The whole process is contaminated, and we need to treat all four positions the same way. When this was brought to the administration’s attention, we didn’t just focus on the sheriff position. We dealt with the whole problem,” Lawton said.
New advertisements will be published within days, and the job descriptions for all four have been posted on the employment section of the county’s website, www.luzernecounty.org. The first review of applicants will be Jan. 23.
Lawton also said he is considering an option of listing future openings in advertisements that list job titles but require applicants to visit the county website for specific information on minimum qualifications.
Frank Sorick, president of the Wilkes-Barre City Taxpayers Association, said he had contacted Lawton urging him to reopen the sheriff position after learning about the job advertisement issue.
Sorick said there may be qualified people with law enforcement experience, including retirees, who did not apply because they don’t have a bachelor’s degree.
“Let’s see if there’s more interest. We might get the same pool of candidates again, but we may not. It has to be fair to everyone,” Sorick said.
Szumski, Haddock, Dysleski and Lisman were notified of their move to interim managers several days ago, officials said.
Szumski, hired at $45,000, has an associate’s degree in criminal justice and police and sheriff state certifications. He worked as a deputy sheriff and assistant unit coordinator in the sheriff’s office since December 2006 until his promotion to sheriff lieutenant in April and to interim sheriff in September.
Haddock, who is paid $47,500, graduated from the Pennsylvania Bankers Association’s Advanced School of Banking and completed numerous college-level courses.
He most recently worked as a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission fare collector, has nine years of management experience with the State Workers’ Insurance Fund and 24 years of experience at several local and regional banks, including work as assistant vice president overseeing several branches simultaneously.
Dysleski has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminal justice and a master’s degree in public administration. She worked as a title searcher for 13 years and has 14 years of county government management experience, including two prior terms as elected recorder of deeds. Her salary is $50,000.
Lisman, who is paid $45,000, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a funeral home management degree and is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State Police Academy’s County Coroner Education School. He has worked in the county Coroner’s Office since 1975 and has been overseeing the office since the last elected coroner John Corcoran’s term expired in January 2012.
The restructuring of former row offices saves $125,118 in salaries annually compared to the prior government structure because Haddock and Dysleski manage offices previously directed by four elected officials, and several row office deputy posts were eliminated.