Brominski pushes to disband Luzerne County’s citizen manager search committee

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | April 8th, 2016 5:07 pm

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Edward Brominski is urging his Luzerne County Council colleagues to disband the citizen manager search committee and appoint a new panel to recommend finalists for the top county leadership job.

The agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting, released Friday, includes votes to vacate and reconstitute the search committee and declare “no confidence” in the present committee’s work.

Brominski said he believes the extreme actions are warranted because committee members informed the council during a Sept. 22 closed-door executive session that the committee had voted in executive session to disqualify a manager applicant.

The committee later publicly voted on the disqualification at its March 30 meeting, but Brominski said the initial closed-door vote was a “direct violation” of the state Sunshine Act governing open meetings.

“I don’t stand for that. If you do something wrong, I’m going to expose it,” Brominski said. “How do we know they didn’t vote on other things they weren’t supposed to in executive session?”

The council-appointed committee, which is required under the county’s home rule charter, has been meeting since Dec. 21 and was preparing to submit the names of three manager finalists to the county council for its consideration on April 26.

The manager position is vacant because Robert Lawton resigned at the end of 2015.

The five-member committee ended up with 14 applicants for the position and determined six were qualified, based on their resumes and other paperwork submitted.

The March 30 public vote to disqualify one of these six was based on recommendations that the candidate was ineligible to serve as manager under the home rule charter, some committee members said at that meeting.

The committee did not name the applicant, citing its past decision to keep the identity of all applicants confidential.

Multiple county sources indicated the conflict was related to a search committee member applying for the manager position.

The charter says county board and commission members must wait one year after leaving office to become a county employee.

Robert Fisher, of Salem Township, verified he was the applicant in question in an email responding to a story about the disqualification vote. Fisher resigned from the committee in January to take an out-of-state job consulting assignment.

Fisher said in his email he was “extremely disappointed” a committee majority concluded his candidacy for the position violated the charter.

“Had I believed that it did, I certainly would not have gone to all the effort required to apply. I had no intent to apply when I was appointed,” Fisher wrote.

He said he resigned from the committee for the unforeseen consulting job — not because he became interested in applying for the manager job. Fisher said he later decided to apply for manager because he did not believe the charter prohibited it, and he maintained the public knew the same information he did about the position during the time he served on the committee because it had no executive sessions before he resigned.

Committee chairman Michael Giamber was the lone vote against disqualifying the applicant, saying he did not believe the reason for the removal was “valid.” Giamber has declined to elaborate, citing personnel confidentiality. His argument could be based on the charter prohibition wording, which does not expressly cover members of a committee or other temporary panel.

Giamber has publicly acknowledged he is close to Brominski.

“I was glad to see that Chairman Giamber felt that my removal wasn’t valid, but I must bend to the will of the committee as it would not make sense to challenge their decision,” Fisher said in his email.

“I do hope that the process provides three good candidates who can turn around our county. I will continue following the process and am willing to provide my expertise on behalf of the county as an interested and active citizen,” Fisher wrote.

At least two members of the public supported the committee’s decision to disqualify, arguing the hiring of a former search committee member as manager would create an appearance of impropriety.

Brominski said he emailed a letter of complaint to county District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis April 1 and also sent a copy to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Salavantis said Friday she can’t comment on pending reviews but noted time is needed to process and review email requests because she receives hundreds of emails daily.

Tuesday’s council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the council meeting room at the courthouse. The search committee had scheduled its final public meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the same room.

Gerard O’Donnell, Carmen Ambrosino, Christopher Slusser and Gene A. Camoni also serve on the committee.

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