Luzerne County prison system has new acting overseer


			
				                                Luzerne County Courthouse

Luzerne County Deputy Warden John Robshaw is now serving as acting county prison overseer because Correctional Services Division Head Mark Rockovich is on an approved leave, according to a communication sent to county council late last week.

No time period has been released for Rockovich’s time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. He has served as division head since July 2016 and worked in various positions at the county correctional facility since 1991.

Robshaw was promoted to prison deputy warden in February. He had been hired as a prison lieutenant in June 2018 and advanced to a prison captain at the end of 2019. He also previously held county government positions as an Emergency Management Agency planner, 911 executive director, security director and appointed sheriff, prior published reports show.

Previous deputy warden Sam Hyder resigned last November after nearly five years as second-in-command.

Act 13

Approximately $100,000 to $110,000 in county funding from the natural gas industry will be available for outside entities to complete recreation-related projects, said county Councilman Brian Thornton, who chairs council’s Act 13 Committee.

Thornton said the committee is reviewing all program requirements and will publicly announce application details after they are finalized. Making municipalities and nonprofits aware of the opportunity will be a priority, he said.

“We will want projects that are ready to go,” Thornton said.

The county has received funding from natural gas drilling annually since the state authorized such earmarks under Act 13 in 2012.

This year’s $317,000 allocation arrived in July, Thornton said.

Approximately $162,000 remains after deducting county expenses for black fly spraying along the Susquehanna River and some maintenance of the county-owned River Common recreation complex, Thornton said.

The administration also advised keeping some funds in reserve for emergencies, he said. For example, the natural gas funding had previously helped fund Susquehanna ice jam damage to the River Common fishing pier wall.

Thornton said the committee also will be following up on the status of unfinished projects that had been approved for natural gas funding in the past.

Council members Kevin Lescavage and LeeAnn McDermott also serve on the committee.

Ethics Commission

As part of continuing recruitment challenges, the county Ethics Commission voted last week to publicly seek proposals from contracted attorneys.

The council-adopted ethics code requires the commission to appoint a panel of three attorneys who are not employed by the county to handle the initial stage of complaint investigations, with cases assigned to the outside attorneys on a rotating basis.

Two of the three outside attorney slots were filled in June, but one of those attorneys subsequently left, the commission’s August agenda said.

To assist with recruitment, the commission had increased the attorney compensation to $225 per hour with a maximum cap of $25,000 per year. It was previously $140 per hour for up to $21,000 per year.

The solicitations would be placed on the county website, newspaper and Luzerne Legal Register.

Commission member Walter Griffith, the county controller, voted against the solicitation, arguing the commission must request and obtain budgeted funds from council before it can spend money on advertising and attorneys.

County Manager Randy Robertson said he understands Griffith’s point but said commission members are obligated to seek and retain the attorneys under the county council-adopted ethics code required by the county’s home rule charter. Commission Chairman Thomas Mosca concurred with the manager.

County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce and citizen Diane Dreier also serve on the commission.

Election grant

County council voted last week to incorporate a new $1.04 million state Election Integrity Grant in the county’s budget.

The grant is designed to ensure counties across the state have their mail ballots counted by midnight on election night. A council majority had agreed to use a portion of the funds to purchase a mail ballot sorting machine to speed up the ballot receipt recording and Election Day processing. The election bureau also plans to use the funds to cover temporary workers and other expenses.

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

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