Citizens Ray Gustave and Kathy Dobash recently scolded Luzerne County Council for continuing to discuss county matters through email.
“If you want open government, this is the place to discuss it — not private emails,” Gustave, of West Wyoming, said at the March 19 council meeting.
Dobash, a Hazleton resident running for county council, said council members should wait until public meetings to exchange views on county matters. She said she is forced to resort to Right-to-Know requests to learn what was discussed through email between meetings.
The subject came up March 19 when Councilwoman Elaine Maddon Curry referred to a council “email exchange” she read about the topic of filling council vacancies.
Some council members rarely or never share views through emails, but the responses of others usually are copied to all 11 council members.
County officials have expressed interest in instituting a procedure used in Sarasota County, Fla., which automatically posts emails between council members and the manager online. Emails from outside parties are not posted unless the manager and council send them to each other. All emails of the five elected commissioners in Alachua County, Fla., also are posted online.
Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he would support online posting if technology allows a warning of the potential public release before emails are sent. McGinley said he emails information to council members for their review but consciously refrains from offering his opinions through email.
* The latest property assessments have been posted on The Times Leader’s free online property assessment database at www.timesleader.com (click on the tax assess icon on the main page).
* Council members recently voted to ask state legislators to push for state funding for the county Public Defender’s Office. Pennsylvania is the only state that does not fund county public defender offices, which provide legal representation for the indigent.
Citizen Kevin O’Brien told council members not to expect much response because the state never complied with the lion’s share of a 1987 state Supreme Court mandate to to fund most county court-related programs, and public defender’s offices were not part of that court order.
* Councilman Rick Williams said he also wants legislators to push for a change in state law forcing collective bargaining binding arbitration hearings to be held in public.
* Councilman Edward Brominski said he recently spoke with local business people who suggested county officials focus more on attracting employers and creating jobs. “That’s what we should be concerned with,” he said.
* Maddon Curry questioned why council was spending so much time discussing some topics at the March 19 meeting, including a citizen-donated sign thanking businesses for publicly broadcasting council meetings.
“Everything becomes such a project here. It has to become such a drama,” she said.
* The county’s Recreational Advisory Board will hold its second meeting at 6 p.m. tonight in the council meeting room on the first floor of the county courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.
* Council will hold a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss county Manager Robert Lawton’s request to confirm Archbald resident Richard M. Cardamone as head of the budget and financial services division. Cardamone will attend the meeting to answer council’s questions. He will be the first of eight home rule division heads to undergo the council confirmation process established by home rule.