Luzerne County Council now has more prospective appointees for two vacant election board seats that must be filled by one Republican and one Democrat.
County council is set to vote on the appointments Tuesday.
Before Monday, the only applicants that had completed public interviews and met eligibility requirements were Republican Roxanne Arreguin, of West Pittston, and Democrat Audrey Serniak, of Plains Township, who had served on the board from July 2019 through 2023.
A council committee conducted additional interviews Monday night to add these new election board applicants to the eligibility list — Republican Rick Morelli and Democrats Albert Flora and Albert Schlosser
Three others interviewed by the committee — Democrats Peter T. Bard and Debra Yanuzzi and Republican Scott Tomkins — had initially applied for the election board but were ineligible under county home rule charter restrictions.
Bard, Yanuzzi and Tomkins were still interviewed because they were interested in openings on other boards that don’t carry the same restrictions.
Bard, of Hazle Township, was ineligible for the election board because he was not a member of the same political party continuously the last five years as required.
Tomkins, of Bear Creek Township, and Yanuzzi, of Sugarloaf Township, were Election Day poll workers, and county officials have said poll workers cannot be appointed to the election board because they receive payment from the county, which would be a charter prohibition.
This poll worker restriction also had prevented Democrat Peter Wolman, of Jackson Township, from making it on the election board eligibility list for the current opening.
Some background on the board applicants interviewed Monday:
• Morelli, of Sugarloaf Township, works as a strategic account executive and served as a county councilman twice. He also served on the commission that drafted the home rule charter, the home rule transition committee and the volunteer manager search committee activated in 2021.
Morelli said he applied for the election board because he is a big proponent of the county’s home rule structure and wants its successes to continue.
He said his past experiences running for office and in county government could “add value” to the election board.
A major presidential election is coming up, and it is important the public has confidence in the election, Morelli said.
• Flora, of Wilkes-Barre, is a self-employed attorney in private practice and had served as county chief public defender in the past.
Flora said he decided to apply for the election board because it is “critical to the democratic process” and surprising to him that more citizens had not stepped up.
He said he wants to serve in the seat to give back to the community that helped him have a successful law practice.
Flora emphasized he would follow facts and adhere to the law if he is appointed and would not be influenced by politics.
He would try to build consensus of opinion among the board, if possible, but said the board must proceed based on majority decision.
• Schlosser, of Hanover Township, is retired and said he most recently worked for three decades at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital — the last 20 years as a patient advocate.
He had served on the Hanover Area School Board in the 1970s and said he had reported absentee ballot and election fraud in 1978 that led to an official investigation and charges against numerous individuals.
Schlosser said he applied for the election board seat because he saw the county’s plea for applicants and thought his experience could help.
“The election process is so important to our democracy. It’s so fragile. It has to be protected,” he said.
The five-citizen, volunteer election board serves as an independent citizen body to oversee elections, make determinations on flagged ballots and write-in votes and certify election results.
Council has 60 days to make the board appointments, or until the end of February. If that deadline is missed, any county resident can petition the county Court of Common Pleas to fill the seats within 30 days.
The remaining two council-appointed election board members — Democrat Daniel Schramm and Republican Alyssa Fusaro — are in terms that do not expire until the end of 2025. Denise Williams, a Democrat and board chair, serves through April 20, 2025.
During her 2022 interview, Arreguin, of West Pittston, said she was a retired accountant from Tuscon, Arizona, and moved to Pennsylvania four years prior for her husband’s employment. She said she applied for the election board seat to serve the community and because she believes safe and secure elections are very important for all registered voters.
Serniak, of Plains Township, was the most veteran seated board member, serving since July 2019.
A retired personal insurance service representative, Serniak had said during her interview she started serving on the board before the state implemented mail ballot voting, and she has been actively involved in making sure procedures were implemented to address the major changes.
The two new election board members will serve with Democrats Daniel Schramm and Denise Williams (chair) and Republican Alyssa Fusaro.
In addition to preparing for and attending evening board meetings, election board members must be available on Election Day and during the day for a little over a week to two weeks after each primary and general election for the adjudication process.
All applicants have said they can fulfill this scheduling requirement.
Council’s Tuesday meeting is at 6 p.m. in the county courthouse on River Street in Wilkes-Barre, with instructions for remote attendance posted under council’s online meetings link at luzernecounty.org.
Council Vice Chairman Brian Thornton chairs the committee that interviews and screens board applicants. This committee also includes council Chairman John Lombardo and Council members Chris Perry and Brittany Stephenson.
The committee generally asks the same series of questions to be consistent with all applicants. Councilwoman Joanna Bryn Smith spoke up after Schlosser was interviewed by the committee and singled him out for a specific question on whether he supported mail ballot voting and drop boxes.
Schlosser said he supports both because he does not want to make it harder for people to vote.
In public comment, Hazleton resident Mark Rabo criticized her “political litmus test” question.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.