At an unusual en banc hearing, Luzerne County judges appointed Michael Johnson to the Nuangola borough council. The conclave of all county justices occurred on Thursday, February 28th. The closed door session was necessitated by the repeated absence of three council members resulting in the lack of a quorum to conduct business.
Borough Solicitor Jack Dean explained, “After the resignation of Elaine Donahue, council had 20 days to make an appointment. In the absence of a quorum, the vacancy board then had 15 days. The vacancy board is a creature of the statute and since council couldn’t meet, the vacancy chair was also vacant. “At that point, the borough code says that the remaining members of council ‘shall’ - it is mandatory – file a petition with the court to fill the vacancy. So over a week ago, I filed on behalf of the remaining council members, which are Plodwick, Kaiser, DeLuca, Kochan, Tucker and Vancosky. I filed with the Court of Common Pleas a petition to fill the vacancy.“ Dean said that the public notice was posted and, “We announced it at a public meeting, if anyone wants to apply, give me your application.” Dean said that in response he received three applications which were attached to the petition. The three letters submitted at that point were from Doug Fawbush, a former member of council, Joan Shirk a former candidate, and Mark Gandzyck, a former council member. He said that a notice was posted on the borough building that interested parties should submit an application by Tuesday, February 26th. Dean added that another person submitted an application, but before the judges met, she withdrew her application. Dean refrained from publicizing her name, due to her withdrawal.
Dean reported that he was not aware of any other candidates, but a fourth resident came forward, Michael Johnson, who was appointed by the judges’ panel. Dean advised that in his role as the Borough Solicitor, his responsibilities were directed by the borough code, “My job was to see to the mechanics of the process. I just wanted to be sure that the process is done right.” Dean received a Court Order notifying him that Michael Johnson was appointed to the seat. He said that upon being sworn in Johnson will assume the vacant seat at the March 12th council meeting. Johnson, a realtor and member of the Nuangola Lake Association, said that he submitted his name because he was concerned about conditions in the borough because council has been unable to meet since the start of the New Year. “Well, three members of council have been absent for three consecutive meetings. And the borough not being able to move forward at all is a concern. I have a large investment in Nuangola Borough and I want to see the borough progress, rather than be at a standstill with these political games. “In this day and age with Skype and cell phones, the three saying that they couldn’t participate is pretty much inexcusable anymore.”
Of immediate concern, Johnson said, is the progression of the community sewer project. “It is not under the direct control of council, but I want to see it come to a successful conclusion with everybody hooked up. Johnson noted that he has already been sworn in and is therefore a vested member of council. He expressed the opinion that any delays in completing the sewer project could have significant financial impact for property owners, “If the rate turns to ‘pea soup,’ their property values are going to decrease by 30% whether they are on the lake or not.” He said he was gratified by his selection by the judges’ panel, “I guess my qualifications spoke for themselves, I didn’t call anyone or do anything other than to submit a letter and my resume.” Michael Johnson’s first meeting will be March 12th He said he is aware that his seat will be under contention in the upcoming elections and Johnson affirmed that he intends to run.