Lawton appointee for post had prior job dismissal

June 26th, 2015 5:37 am

First Posted: 6/12/2013

Luzerne County Manager Robert Lawton has named senior accountant Brian Swetz the interim county budget and financial services division head until he finds a permanent candidate to fill the top post.

The division head position is vacant because Richard Cardamone recently resigned after several weeks on the job to accept a position outside the area.

Swetz was hired as senior accountant at $45,000 in March and won’t receive a pay increase to handle the additional duties, Lawton said. Swetz will be interim division head for 90 days or until another candidate is confirmed by council, he said.

Lawton said he is conducting a nationwide search for the new division head and stressed Swetz won’t be among the applicants.

Swetz’s “leadership role” in two pending major projects — preparation of the county’s 2012 audit and the switch to a new financial software system — “weighed heavily” in his interim appointment, Lawton said. Both deadline projects are “extremely critical” for the county’s financial well-being, Lawton said.

“You have proven your abilities to oversee these important matters during your employment for Luzerne County, and I trust you will continue to move forward with these matters, as well as other financial issues that may arise in this interim position,” Lawton wrote in a letter to Swetz.

Lawton thanked Swetz for his service and dedication and said he looks forward to working with him in his new capacity.

Under home rule, the budget and financial services division covers the holding and disbursement of all county funds, budgets, accounting and property assessments.

Swetz’s senior accountant position was created to reduce expenses, Lawton said. In the past, the county paid outside fee accountants $140,000 annually to get the county’s financial records in shape for audits. Swetz is handling that work in-house, Lawton said.

“We save two-thirds of the total cost and now have a staff person present on a day-to-day basis to handle other work throughout the year,” Lawton said.

County Councilman Edward Brominski forwarded council members and the news media a copy of Swetz’s resume and job application for the senior accountant position. In the job application, Swetz disclosed his termination from his most recent private-sector position as a financial analyst.

Brominski complained at Tuesday’s council meeting about the hiring of an employee who was terminated elsewhere and held up the job application, though he did not publicly name the worker. Brominski said someone he knows obtained a copy of the application through a public information request and emailed a copy to him.

Swetz listed his employment at an area company October 2008 through June 2012 and wrote “termination” in the application box that asks the reason for leaving the position. Another section of the county application says prior employers may be contacted unless an applicant specifies those that should not be contacted and the reason why. He named the company and wrote the following as the reason: “I made an error on draft financials and was immediately terminated.”

Brominski questioned the applicant review process during Tuesday’s meeting.

“The human resources office is not doing its job,” he said. “They’re not reading over the applications and seeing why people were terminated.”

Lawton said Wednesday he can’t discuss personnel matters but said the backgrounds of all employees hired in departments he oversees have been scrutinized since he became manager last year.

Swetz declined comment on the job application. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Misericordia University and also has worked as a business consultant from 2005 through 2008.

County Chief Solicitor C. David Pedri intervened when Brominski raised the issue of past termination at the council meeting, cautioning him against discussing a confidential personnel issue.

“I’m not naming names,” Brominski replied.

“If you choose to go forward with it, Luzerne County will not be able to protect you in any way, shape or form,” Pedri warned.

Brominski said he was referring to a public document.