SCRANTON — The Lackawanna County Salary Board on Wednesday voted to fund a new position to perform state Supreme Court-mandated work, an issue that sparked contentious debate at a prior salary board meeting late last year.
Register of Wills Fran Kovaleski — who also serves as clerk of the Orphans’ Court, a division of the county court system — appeared before the board on Dec. 20 seeking a budget amendment to create a full-time guardianship administrator position at an annual salary of $42,000 plus benefits. Tensions rose at that meeting when county officials told Kovaleski the salary board can only vote to fund positions, not create them.
Nonetheless, Kovaleski and the county continued to discuss the issue. On Feb. 1, she raised some fees in both the Register of Wills and Orphans’ Court offices to cover the cost of the position, hoping the salary board would ultimately fund it.
That’s what the board did Wednesday by voting to fund the position at an annual salary of $42,000, with only Commissioner Laureen Cummings voting no. Cummings, who sits on the salary board with fellow commissioners Patrick O’Malley and Jerry Notarianni and county Controller Gary DiBileo, said she doesn’t feel the position is necessary.
The administrator will work for the Orphans’ Court and serve as a coordinator between the courts and court-appointed guardians of senior citizens, informing current guardians of new reporting practices, updating the county’s data on active guardianships and migrating that data into a new computer-based Guardian Tracking System. They would also alert the courts of any potential improprieties in guardianship reports to help protect seniors from fraud, among other responsibilities.
Much of that work is being mandated by the state Supreme Court through the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts and is too much for current staff to manage given their existing workload, Kovaleski said earlier this year.
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Lackawanna County Salary Board votes to fund guardianship administrator position