Luzerne County Councilman Eugene Kelleher offers parting words

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Luzerne County Courthouse Luzerne County Courthouse -
Keheller Keheller -

Eugene Kelleher said goodbye to his Luzerne County Council colleagues Tuesday because he plans to resign before the next meeting if the sale of his Dallas Township residence proceeds next week as expected.

The 75-year-old Republican, who serves as council vice chair, said last month he is relocating to Lancaster to work for his son.

He had served two years on the initial council seated under the county’s home rule government structure in 2012 and returned when voters elected him to a four-year term in November 2015. Council must select another Republican to fill the rest of his term through 2019 and also name a new vice chair.

After praising several employees and fellow council members, Kelleher said he believes people should “take more pride” in positives developments under home rule, which replaced three elected commissioners with an appointed manager and 11-member, part-time elected council.

He cited the county’s investment-grade credit rating, the shrinking of debt from $421 million in 2012 to around $270 million today and decisions that have been “open and above board.”

“We don’t always vote the same way, but we’ve handled things in a congenial manner and never had personalities entered in,” Kelleher said.

Councilman Robert Schnee told Kelleher he served with integrity, voted his conscience and is a “class act.”

Sheila Saidman said Kelleher has been a “wonderful mentor” since she started serving on council in 2018, describing him as a “gem.”

“Luzerne County is losing a great guy,” added Councilman Chris Perry,

Councilman Stephen A. Urban wished Kelleher happiness and health.

“Thank you for all you did for the county,” Urban said.

Council Chairman Tim McGinley said Kelleher always volunteered for committees when needed and will be missed.

Under the process enacted by council, the county will publicly seek applications from Republicans interested in the seat once Kelleher submits a resignation. Applicants must be publicly interviewed before council selects a replacement through majority vote.

In other business Tuesday:

• Councilman Stephen A. Urban said he would not consider awarding another county tax-claim operation contract to Northeast Revenue Service LLC until the Plains Township company discloses if and when it reported former Scranton mayor William Courtright’s demand to pay a $4,000 bribe to keep the company’s contract in that city, as indicated in court records.

Courtright pleaded guilty to three federal corruption charges last week, and a Northeast Revenue spokesman said its company representatives have fully cooperated with investigators and have not been charged with any unlawful acts.

Northeast Revenue has been overseeing the county’s tax claim collections since 2010, and its contract expires the end of this year. Three other companies also have submitted proposals to handle the work.

• County Manager C. David Pedri said the administration and its consultant “feel very strongly” the county real estate assessment database will be restored in time for school tax bills to be issued Aug. 1.

Ten of the 12 school districts in the county typically mail their tax bills in July, but the county asked districts to wait until Aug. 1 because the county’s real estate assessment database is still down due to a Memorial Day weekend cyber attack.

Without the database, the county assessor’s office has been unable to update property changes needed to ensure school tax bills are based on current information.

Luzerne County Courthouse
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/web1_luzcocourthouse01-3.jpgLuzerne County Courthouse

Keheller
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/web1_Kelleher.jpgKeheller

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.