James Ferry is no longer Luzerne County Planning/Zoning executive director.
Three top officials said Monday that Ferry was terminated for reasons that could not be discussed due to personnel confidentiality, but county Manager C. David Pedri later told the Times Leader that Ferry resigned.
Pedri said he is the only person with authority under home rule to hire or fire employees under his jurisdiction, and he accepted Ferry’s resignation Monday.
“I thank him for his service to the county and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Pedri said of Ferry.
Ferry has been overseeing the office since April 2016 and had attended last week’s county council meeting to discuss a grant application for sidewalks and bus stops at the Hanover Industrial Estates in Hanover Township. His salary was $63,175.
Several attempts to reach Ferry on his cell phone Monday were unsuccessful.
The county planning/zoning office is in the midst of working with the county Planning Commission on a major revamping of the county’s zoning ordinance — a project Ferry had hoped would be presented to county council for its consideration this summer.
This would be the first full update of the 98-page ordinance since it took effect in the 1960s, he had said. The ordinance regulates where various types of structures may be located and sets construction parameters in 22 municipalities that opted for county coverage.
The county office also handles subdivision and land development for 28 municipalities.
In addition to a director, the planning/zoning office employs a clerk, planner, two planning and zoning analysts and a transportation planner, the position budget shows. However, Tanis Manseau, the transportation planner, recently said he has resigned to accept a new position in another state.
Mapping analyst David Skoronski will be serving as interim planning zoning overseer while the administration advertises the position.
The administration’s hiring of Ferry for the county post had been criticized by some.
Ferry had his law license suspended in 2007 based on alleged mishandling of eight cases in his private practice. He had signed an affidavit in July 2007 acknowledging the material facts in the petition and consenting to the discipline.
Pedri, who was acting county manager when Ferry was hired for the county management position, said then the suspension was irrelevant because Ferry wasn’t being hired as a county lawyer. A panel of county employees had interviewed several applicants and recommended Ferry as the top finalist, Pedri had said.
Later that year, in December 2016, Pedri’s father, Charles, was hired to a new position overseeing Hazleton’s code enforcement office and handling some duties that had previously been performed by Ferry before his county employment. The younger Pedri characterized then-county Councilwoman Kathy Dobash’s public claims of job trading as false innuendos.
Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat said at the time he supported Charles Pedri’s hiring because he is a licensed building code officer and has more than 30 years of experience in building codes and legal matters.
In addition to working as a code enforcement supervisor and zoning enforcement officer for Hazleton city government, Ferry has worked as a legal studies instructor, benefits consultant and community outreach manager at The Arc of Luzerne County assisting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from 2008 through 2011.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.