Luzerne County’s new Government Study Commission to hold organizational meeting Monday

The seven citizens voters selected to study Luzerne County’s government structure will take the oath of office and meet for the first time to organize Monday night.

According to an online posting, the oath for new Government Study Commission members will take place at 6 p.m. in the rotunda of the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

An organizational meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m. in the council meeting room.

The meeting portion will be both in-person and virtual. Instructions for the remote attendance option will be posted under the public online meetings link at

County April 23 primary election voters selected the following candidates to serve on the commission: Vito Malacari, Hanover Township; Cindy Malkemes, Dallas Township; Timothy McGinley, Kingston; Matt Mitchell, Plains Township; Ted Ritsick, Forty Fort; Mark Shaffer, Wilkes-Barre; and Stephen J. Urban, Kingston.

McGinley, Mitchell and Urban previously served on county council.

The primary election tally was 31,968 voters supporting formation of a study commission and 15,009 against.

In addition to electing officers at the first organizational meeting, the commission should agree on general procedural rules, a plan to keep an official record of meetings and a schedule of meetings, according to the “Home Rule in Pennsylvania” handbook compiled by the Pennsylvania Governor’s Center for Local Government Services.

“A regular and well-publicized time and place for commission meetings is important for encouraging citizen attendance,” it said.

The commission will have nine months to report findings and recommendations and another nine months if it is opting to prepare and submit government changes. An extra two months is allowable if the commission is recommending electing council by district instead of at large.

Voters must ultimately approve any commission recommendation for it to take effect.

All seven elected to the commission had stated they were not advocating a return to the prior three-commissioner/row officer structure that was replaced by home rule’s 2012 implementation.

The county’s last 11-citizen study commission held weekly meetings, broadcast online, between June and December 2009, when it decided to take the next step and draft a proposed charter. It released a final report and recommended charter in August 2010 that was approved by voters in the November 2010 general election.

That commission retained a solicitor and the Pennsylvania Economy League as a consultant to assist.

A study commission’s work is “considerable,” said the handbook, noting past commissions have averaged around 50 meetings, with some up to 100.

A county council majority authorized the study commission ballot question in October, with several council members saying they are powerless to make significant changes due to the law’s requirement to form a study commission.

Council Chairman John Lombardo formally read the names of the new commission members at last week’s council meeting.

Council will be expected to approve a budget allocation for the commission to perform its work.

Councilman Harry Haas said council clerk Sharon Lawrence is too busy to take on the additional role of assisting the commission.

Lombardo said Lawrence can help with the organization, and he expects the commission will research options for keeping minutes and performing other secretarial duties going forward.

Commission members have cited a range of issues they want to review, including charter provisions that may conflict with superseding state law.

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


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