Last updated: July 29. 2013 12:21AM - 2597 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com - (570) 991-6388

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Luzerne County Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he’s exploring a possible solution to force public discussion and approval on pay raises and job creations.

The issue surfaced last week because county Controller Walter Griffith gave his senior auditor a $4,000 annual raise due to an increased workload, even though roughly 300 non-union county employees in other departments have gone five years without salary increases.

Griffith said he can grant the raise without public justification or council approval because he has unspent payroll funds in his 2013 budget. Though he exercised the power, he said he prefers the prior government system process requiring salary board approval for pay increases and new positions.

McGinley said he plans to propose the inclusion of all authorized positions and salaries in the official 2014 budget ordinance.

He believes that would force the controller, county manager, district attorney and court branches to request a budget amendment if they want to increase pay or add positions that deviate from the budgeted and authorized personnel plan.

Budget amendments require public hearings and council approval, McGinley said.

• Thursday is the deadline for county property owners to file an assessment appeal for 2014. Appeal forms are available on the assessor’s section of the county website, www.luzernecounty.org.

• The county is recouping $16,500 that can be spent on diversity, but council members haven’t identified a worthy cause or program.

Prior commissioners had allocated the funding to the now-defunct county diversity commission several years ago. Council voted Tuesday to ask the Luzerne Foundation, which has been holding the money, to return it to the county.

Councilwoman Elaine Maddon Curry said she believes the money should be set aside for its original purpose. Several council members expressed concern the administration will spend the cash on something else if they don’t specify a plan in advance.

County Manager Robert Lawton said he will keep the money separate until council reaches a decision.

“I’d like to assure the chair that these funds are not part of a manager’s slush fund,” Lawton said.

• In an attempt to address past concerns about speakerphone meeting attendance, county Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri is now asking council members if they lost phone connection before establishing if their votes are counted.

Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck, who attended Tuesday’s meeting by phone, was prepared. She told Pedri she was disconnected for about six seconds at 8:04 p.m. and immediately called back to be reconnected. It was during debate about a parking ordinance that was tabled.

Pedri accepted the votes of McClosky Houck and also Stephen A. Urban, who attended the beginning of the meeting by phone.

• After a lengthy debate, county council voted last week to table a proposed parking policy for further review.

• Two council committees will meet tonight at the council meeting room in the courthouse. The authorities/boards/commissions meeting will publicly interview applicants for vacant seats at 6 p.m. The strategic initiatives committee will discuss priorities and workforce standards at 7 p.m. or whenever the board seat interviews conclude.

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