Council questions new Luzerne County human services management position

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected] | January 3rd, 2018 7:13 pm

Griffith criticizes election response

Walter Griffith is calling for more timely Luzerne County government response to election inquiries, saying he learned too late that he must comply with a different calendar to circulate petitions needed to place a county home rule study question on the May 15 primary ballot.

Based on election law wording, Griffith initially believed petitions had to be circulated between Jan. 2 and Feb. 20.

To be sure, he sent an email to the election bureau at 10:39 p.m. Dec. 27 seeking clarification. A bureau representative replied shortly before 5 p.m. Dec. 28, indicating that a response had been requested from bureau solicitor Michael Butera and would be furnished as soon as he replied.

Griffith, who raised the issue at Wednesday’s county election board meeting, said he did not receive a response from Butera until Jan. 2, and he was informed the circulation period was Dec. 26 to Feb. 13. Despite losing time, Griffith said he is still proceeding as planned in the effort to gather 5,000 signatures.

County Manager C. David Pedri said Wednesday night he will review the matter with the bureau and county law office and address the situation if response time is an issue.

Luzerne County is accepting applications for a management position that was heavily debated during county council’s 2018 budget discussions.

The job — human services program director — was ultimately included in the budget at $70,000 a year plus benefits because only five of 11 council members supported a budget amendment rejecting it.

County officials said the state will fund 95 percent of the cost. The position has been advertised at a salary range of $65,000 to $70,000, according to the career opportunities page at www.luzernecounty.org.

Lynn Hill, who was hired to oversee the human services division in February 2017, told council she determined the position was warranted after assessing the division’s structure and diverse programs.

The program director would review data and services to streamline existing programs and develop new ones, allowing her to focus more on finances, increased community outreach and education, she has said.

Councilman Harry Haas was among the five voting to remove the position, saying in November that he wanted to give Hill “a chance to shine” because she had been in the top position less than a year.

“I understand the logic behind it, but I can’t support it,” Haas said.

Councilman Stephen A. Urban agreed, noting each human service department — Drug and Alcohol, Mental Health and Developmental Services, Children and Youth, Aging and Veteran Affairs — also has its own manager.

Urban also questioned where the state is “coming up with the money” to add staff.

“Now we’re saying that a manager needs another manager to manage the managers. It doesn’t make sense,” Urban said at the November meeting.

Council members Edward Brominski and then-council colleagues Kathy Dobash and Eileen Sorokas also voted against the post. Dobash and Sorokas did not seek re-election.

Applications for the new job are due by 12 a.m. Friday.

Position advocates

Tim McGinley was among the six council members supporting the position, pointing to the division’s size and extensive public services. A second in command would be an asset, he said.

“This is a major undertaking,” he told his colleagues.

The division employs approximately 412, Hill has said.

Human service departments have a combined budget of $105.4 million in 2018, which includes $8.65 million in funding from the county’s $138.4 million general fund operating budget, county records show. The rest of the funding comes from the state and other sources.

According to the job posting, the program director will help with managing the division and daily operations while “supporting a positive culture throughout the division.”

The hired employee also must analyze and evaluate program objectives, policies, procedures, regulations and ongoing operations of all human service departments.

The minimum requirements: a bachelor’s degree with major course work in public administration, social work, and/or human services; extensive administrative or operational experience in these areas, including three years in a supervisory position; or any equivalent combination of acceptable training and experience providing the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities.

Improving culture

County Manager C. David Pedri told council many other counties have a similar human services position and denial of the request would be a “major issue.”

The program director will identify shared programs in the division and help eliminate an isolating “silo” effect among these departments.

“It makes all of our human services run more efficiently,” Pedri had said.

As part of an effort to encourage teamwork among division departments, Hill recently announced the success of a holiday giving tree activity launched by a culture committee she started in May.

Human service employees decorated trees displayed in the human services building in Wilkes-Barre on their lunch breaks and voted for their favorites through donations of new hats, scarves, gloves and socks, amassing 429 items given to the needy.

Hill
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/web1_hill.jpegHill

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Griffith criticizes election response

Walter Griffith is calling for more timely Luzerne County government response to election inquiries, saying he learned too late that he must comply with a different calendar to circulate petitions needed to place a county home rule study question on the May 15 primary ballot.

Based on election law wording, Griffith initially believed petitions had to be circulated between Jan. 2 and Feb. 20.

To be sure, he sent an email to the election bureau at 10:39 p.m. Dec. 27 seeking clarification. A bureau representative replied shortly before 5 p.m. Dec. 28, indicating that a response had been requested from bureau solicitor Michael Butera and would be furnished as soon as he replied.

Griffith, who raised the issue at Wednesday’s county election board meeting, said he did not receive a response from Butera until Jan. 2, and he was informed the circulation period was Dec. 26 to Feb. 13. Despite losing time, Griffith said he is still proceeding as planned in the effort to gather 5,000 signatures.

County Manager C. David Pedri said Wednesday night he will review the matter with the bureau and county law office and address the situation if response time is an issue.

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


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