Luzerne County officials won't discuss if or when Election Bureau Director Leonard Piazza will return to work from a forced administrative leave.
County Manager Robert Lawton, who imposed the disciplinary action last week, said Tuesday a plan is in the works to ensure the April 24 primary runs smoothly if Piazza isn't at the helm.
Lawton said he has contacted state election officials to discuss the matter and is seeking assistance from the county's electronic voting machine supplier.
County employees with past election experience also will provide assistance, Lawton said, declining to elaborate.
"We have a knowledge base," he said.
The placement of Piazza on leave with pay was connected to his recent decision to audit the campaign finance reports of county Controller Walter Griffith, according to informed sources.
Griffith has said Piazza's office doesn't have authority to audit his reports because that responsibility is handled by the state. The controller believes he was singled out because he's been scrutinizing Piazza's attendance records.
Piazza has declined to discuss interactions with Griffith and said he does not believe Lawton has authority to discipline him. County officials said the election director is a county employee supervised by the county manager. The county election board met in closed-door executive session Tuesday night to discuss the matter.
Local political consultant Bob Caruso objected to the private meeting, saying the public should hear the discussion. The board asked county assistant solicitor Vito DeLuca into the session. Piazza was not present. Lawton was in the room for a few minutes.
Caruso told board Chairman H. Jeremy Packard that the board's solicitor, Michael Butera, works for the county manager.
Packard said the board is aware of that and will discuss the possibility of retaining outside legal counsel.
Caruso also said he received a call from a candidate who unsuccessfully tried to obtain a list of registered voters from the election bureau on Monday. Election office workers told the candidate they did not know how to provide the information on a computer disc, he said.
"We're two weeks away. The candidates need this data now," Caruso said.
Lawton said he was not aware of that problem and said the administration will correct any candidates' difficulties obtaining service from the office.
In related business, Piazza filed a complaint against DeLuca on Tuesday with the state Supreme Court disciplinary board seeking his disbarment. Piazza accused DeLuca of obstructing justice by halting the campaign finance investigation.
DeLuca said he can't discuss confidential personnel matters but added, "Trust that the proper procedures were followed."
Piazza also said he plans to seek assistance from the state American Civil Liberties Union next week "on behalf of Luzerne County's 190,000+ voters."