Luzerne County officials scramble to fill election board vacancies before upcoming primary

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]

With only three months before the April 26 primary election, Luzerne County’s five-person election board is down two members and soon will lose a third.

The board must oversee elections, including preparations involving polling places and the ballot.

Board members Thomas Baldino, John Ruckno and H. Jeremy Packard announced in December they won’t be seeking reappointment when their terms end.

Baldino and Ruckno wrapped up their terms Jan. 24. Packard’s term ends Feb. 20, which means the board won’t have a three-person quorum needed to conduct meetings if the vacancies remain unfilled after that date.

The home rule charter requires two Republicans and two Democrats, with a fifth member — currently Packard — selected by the other four board members instead of the county council.

County council members had planned to fill the Republican seat vacated by Ruckno Tuesday, but learned the lone applicant was ineligible under the charter because he had served as a judge of election.

A Democrat wasn’t appointed Tuesday for Baldino’s vacant seat because the two applicants had been publicly interviewed more than a year ago, which violates council bylaws requiring annual interviews.

The council members realized that many applicants on their board and authority eligibility list had been interviewed more than a year ago.

Councilman Tim McGinley, who recently took over chairmanship of the committee that interviews applicants, urged citizens to apply. The application is on the boards and authorities section of the county website,

McGinley was in the process of purging ineligible applicants from the list Thursday and said interviews will conducted as soon as possible.

“Hopefully we can build up that pool of eligible people with good, solid citizens who want to serve,” McGinley said.

Filling the election board vacancies is his most pressing concern.

“It’s critical we get that board reconstituted because we have a primary election very early this year,” McGinley said. “That board has to go over issues preparing for the primary election, and all that has to be done rather quickly.”

County Election Director Marisa Crispell sent Councilman Edward Brominski, who previously chaired the council’s authorities and board interview committee, an email Dec. 14 requesting prompt publicizing of the vacancies to allow the council time to obtain applications and interview applicants.

The new Democrat and Republican appointees also need “adequate time” to meet with the remaining election board members — Paul DeFabo and Gerald Hudak — to identify a new fifth member who also will serve as board chair, she had pointed out.

However, no action was taken, in part because it appeared the council had three eligible applicants available.

The Luzerne County Community College Board of Trustees also has two vacancies that were not filled Tuesday.

Board of Trustees member Carmen F. Magistro’s term expired Aug. 1, and Paul Halesey’s seat became vacant Dec. 31.

The council held off on a vote to reappoint Halesey because county Councilman Stephen A. Urban said it would violate a 12-year term limit measure passed when he was a county commissioner in 2007. However, the county solicitor’s office has since pointed out a county commissioner majority rescinded the term limit policy in 2010.

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.