Luzerne County Courthouse

Luzerne County Courthouse

Luzerne County’s manager search committee decided to ask county council members if they are amenable stating a salary of up to $185,000 in upcoming job advertisements seeking the next county manager.

That is around the current maximum under the county’s home rule charter because the county district attorney’s compensation is $185,665. The charter says the manager must make at least 55% of the DA’s compensation but not more than the DA.

However, the manager cap also will rise in 2022 because judges are scheduled to receive a 5.6% increase due to inflation, and the compensation of DAs is tied to the pay for county judges.

Search committee members agreed they can use the current charter maximum in the job advertisement without seeking council approval, but Committee Chairman Chris Hackett said he wants reassurance it is “getting good numbers to go to market.”

“I don’t want to advertise $185,000 if their appetite is just $160,000,” Hackett said, referring to council.

While council must ultimately hire the manager with at least seven of 11 votes required, the charter requires the outside volunteer citizen search committee to “recommend the candidates it believes are the most qualified.” Council Chairman Tim McGinley had urged the committee in October to approach council if it needs input on the salary or job description to proceed with advertising.

Council will likely discuss the committee’s salary inquiry on Tuesday.

In addition to Hackett, the request for council clearance of up to $185,000 was approved by members Alec Ryncavage, Brian O’Donnell and Patrick Patte.

Committee members Sherri Homanko and Rick Morelli voted against making the council request, with Morelli saying it “makes no sense” because a “new council is coming in in a month.”

As a result of the Nov. 2 election, newcomers John Lombardo, Gregory S. Wolovich Jr., Brian Thornton and Kevin Lescavage will take office in January. Council also must appoint someone new to fill Walter Griffith’s council seat because he was elected county controller.

Hackett said the reorganized council may have different ideas on compensation, but the committee can address that later.

Only six search committee members participated in Thursday’s meeting because the remaining member appointed by council — Ray Wendolowski — recently resigned due to other new obligations. McGinley said he has not received any communications from council or committee members seeking council action on replacing the vacant seat.

The county’s first manager Robert Lawton, hired shortly after home rule’s implementation in 2012, had received $110,000. His successor, C. David Pedri, who resigned in July, was hired at $120,000 and rose to an annual compensation of $137,333 this year.

The prior search committee activated in 2015 before Pedri was hired had proposed advertising the manager position at $140,000 to $160,000.

Council ended up sticking with the charter compensation wording and not narrowing it down, resulting in an advertised range from $96,565 to $175,572. Critics said that unusually broad salary range may have deterred applicants.

Hackett said Thursday he does not support advertising a minimum salary for the position.

O’Donnell agreed, saying he prefers focusing on the “high point” and sees no reason to list a minimum.

Recruitment firm

A committee majority also voted Thursday to reject a $7,200 proposal from Phoenix, Arizona-based Municipal Solutions to help craft a recruitment profile and use its national network and electronic media to recruit qualified applicants that would be presented to the committee for its review and consideration.

Company CEO David Evertsen told the committee he understands the county’s budget limitations but “cannot overstate the value of a thorough search process which attracts the most qualified candidates who are a great fit for Luzerne County.”

He argued posting positions is “no longer enough” and said his company can personally reach out to a vast network of public officials, administrators and civil servants to attract professionals.

Morelli supported the contract, asserting it will take the extra step of reaching out to prospective applicants who would not otherwise apply.

The five others voted against the contract, with some questioning the cost and lack of detail on specific expenditures.

During public comment, county property owner Jason Carr said a valuable candidate with a proven track record of leading a county the size of Luzerne should probably be paid $250,000 or more, although that would not be permitted under the charter.

County Information Technology Director Mauro DiMauro told the committee the charter’s limited salary range makes the position a “stepping stone” for applicants seeking experience to “move on to the next bigger thing.”

On the topic of an outside recruiting company, DiMauro said he received an unsolicited email Thursday encouraging him to apply for an IT position in Maryland at a range of $140,000 to $175,000. He said he has been actively recruited for at least a year now and questioned if the volunteer committee will be able to compete to attract candidates when these companies focus intently on matching up applicants to positions.