Luzerne County Council members voted Tuesday to come up with work force standards they want negotiated into future union contracts.
County Manager Robert Lawton suggested council set targets for health-care contributions, the number of days off and other benefits because six of the county’s 10 union agreements expire Dec. 31.
New contracts must be negotiated with unionized assistant district attorneys/public defenders, prison workers, the rank-and-file residual unit and children-and-youth, aging and mental-health employees.
Lawton said the administration will use council’s standards as a guide, though he cautioned it may take several rounds of contracts to implement all changes.
Several council members have expressed interest in Councilman Stephen A. Urban’s proposal to start converting the work force to 20-percent health-care contributions. Non-union workers have been paying 10 percent for nine years, and union employees pay flat monthly contributions or 10 percent.
Council agreed its strategic initiatives committee will develop proposed standards for council’s approval.
County Ethics Commission Chairwoman Margaret Hogan also discussed concerns about the county ethics code during Tuesday’s meeting.
Commission and council representatives have been working on proposed code changes.
Hogan asked council to consider a legal analysis of the code because attorneys, including some who work for the county, have raised objections about code wording and procedures.
Local attorney Kim Borland, for example, has questioned the legality of the commission serving as both prosecutor and judge. Borland represents a client accused of soliciting private funeral home business while serving as a deputy coroner.
An ethics code and commission are required by home rule. Council members agreed to further discuss the code at a future meeting and did not vote on the commission’s request for a legal review.
Councilwoman Elaine Maddon Curry said there are “real holes” in the ethics complaint procedure that must be addressed.
Several citizens expressed disappointment in the commission and urged council to initiate changes.
Lawton told council he will soon present a plan to sell county-owned property, including the former Valley Crest Nursing Home in Plains Township and a downtown Hazleton building that had been purchased by a prior administration for a southern county annex that never materialized.
The home rule charter requires council approval on the sale of property.
Councilman Edward Brominski reviewed a stack of complaints during the meeting, including a concern that the insurance company selected to provide a bond for Lawton did not meet rating standards specified in a document seeking a county insurance broker.
Brominski also said he received a complaint that the judicial services and records division failed to respond to an outside request for information.