Finding frustration in controller’s office

June 25th, 2015 12:27 pm

First Posted: 8/23/2013

Several acting controller applicants told Luzerne County officials last week they visited the controller’s office and learned the remaining two employees are frustrated and prevented from completing work because the new financial software system still has no historical data on spending and receipts.

The issue came up during council’s public interview of council applicants.

The new $1.28 million system was implemented last month, but information on past finances wasn’t scheduled to be loaded until the end of August, said county Interim Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz.

Swetz said he can still supply reports on past finances if requested by departments, and said he will alert employees of that option. The new system will eventually include information on all accounts dating as far back as 2004, he said.

• County Council will select an acting controller at Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the council meeting room at the courthouse.

Council members Rick Morelli, Rick Williams and Stephen A. Urban did not attend the interview sessions, but council Chairman Tim McGinley said they have the option to listen to audio recordings before the voting session.

• Hazleton Public Transit representatives will attend Tuesday’s meeting to discuss why they have resisted a state push to merge the city’s bus service with the county Transportation Authority.

The county is funding both bus services — $127,949 for the Hazleton area and $485,345 for the rest of the county — this year.

The state has pushed for a merger, estimating it could save up to $1 million annually and reduce the county’s contribution, but city officials dispute the projected savings and believe the quality of Hazleton-area bus service will diminish with a county takeover.

• Council also will vote Tuesday on the hiring of Maryland-based Vision Planning and Consulting for $59,450 to update the county’s 2009 hazard mitigation plan.

The plan is a municipal wish list of projects that could address damage and other problems caused by natural disasters, primarily flooding, said county Planning/Zoning Director Adrian Merolli.

The federal government requires an update every five years, and municipalities must participate and approve the plan to remain eligible for government disaster assistance, Merolli said. The current plan is on the planning commission section of the county website,

• Walter Griffith resigned as controller, possibly as part of a plea agreement related to wiretap charges against him, but he isn’t keeping quiet.

Griffith sent County Council an email Friday questioning why the county records retention committee hasn’t held a public meeting to approve the use of a special records fund for rent to store county documents at the Thomas C. Thomas building in downtown Wilkes-Barre. The fund, established by state law in 1998, comes from a fee on deeds recorded in the county.

Griffith described county Manager Robert Lawton as “county dictator” in the email and said he will file a formal complaint with the state Attorney General’s Office if he doesn’t receive a response to his request by Aug. 30.