Effort to rethink Luzerne County’s home rule charter fails to launch

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
Griffith -

A push to re-examine Luzerne County’s home rule government structure has apparently fizzled.

Former county controller Walter Griffith put out a plea for someone to take ownership of the effort earlier this month, saying he would assist but not spearhead the collection of 3,722 voter signatures needed to get the home rule study question on the November general election ballot.

Griffith said Monday nobody has contacted him committing to take on the leadership task.

The circulation period for signatures started a week ago, or on June 19, and ends Aug. 7, he said.

County Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo and county Election Director Marisa Crispell also said they were not notified of anyone proceeding with the signature collection.

Griffith said he wanted someone else to take charge because he had devoted extensive time attempting to get the question on the primary ballot with help from only a small group of volunteers. He canceled that initiative in January after obtaining approximately 900 signatures.

The signature threshold is set at 5 percent of the 74,436 county votes cast in the last state governor’s race.

Rounding up that many signatures is a challenge, particularly because prospective signers often want a detailed explanation of the study commission and its role, Griffith said.

“Unless someone ambitious steps up, the only way the question is going to get on the ballot is if council puts it there because collecting that many signatures is such a daunting task,” Griffith said Monday.

A council majority has twice rejected a ballot question, in February 2016 and last December, arguing that home rule was working and still too new to warrant re-evaluation.

Implemented in January 2012, the structure put 11 elected council members and an appointed manager in charge of decisions previously made by three elected commissioners and several elected row officers. The prior system had been in effect more than 150 years.

Study commissions have up to 18 months to decide if changes are recommended and, if so, present alternatives to voters for their consideration, the law states. Citizens interested in serving on study commissions must be on the ballot the same time as a study question in case it passes.

Griffith has largely asserted the charter needs more controls over the manager and finances.


By Jennifer Learn-Andes


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

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