Wyoming County Hires New Public Defender

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Wyoming County employees Brian Ball (above, left) and Jerry Dymond were busy Tuesday morning installing new flood lights for the courthouse flagpole, which replaces the one that had been on the east lawn for years.

By Rick Hiduk

(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)

Atty. Steve Franko resigned as Wyoming County chief public defender, effective June 1, as announced by commissioners Judy Mead and Tom Henry at a public meeting held on Tuesday at the courthouse in Tunkhannock. Before the meeting was over, Atty. Timothy Michaels had been appointed to replace Franko at a salary yet to be approved but probably close to $70,000. The commissioners gave no reason for the departure of Franko, who had been appointed to replace Atty Deborah Albert-Heise in December 2015.

Michaels had previously served as the “conflict council” in the event that the public defender was unable to take a case. In addition to dissolving the conflict council position, the commissioners noted that Michaels will also come on board as a county employee. Franko was a contracted employee. In the event of a conflict, Mead said, the president judge can appoint another lawyer at his discretion.

Mead and Henry also accepted the resignations of prison guards Alyssa Mowry and Joshua Burton, noting that Burton had worked at the Wyoming County Prison for a number of years. Adult Probation officer Christopher Cadugan also tendered his resignation, effective May 11. The commissioners announced the hiring of Corey Case and Shannon Evans as part time cooks at the prison.

Housing Authority Signatures Addressed

Ongoing questions as to how to properly handle requests for signatures by the Wyoming County Housing & Redevelopment Authority were settled in the May 15 meeting, sort of. Chief clerk Bill Gaylord said that, when the commissioners approve a contract for the Authority, the chairman of the board – currently Henry – is automatically authorized to sign invoices and payment orders related to the contract.

Solicitor Paul Litwin III countered that it is still safer to bring the items up for a motion, “especially if it’s something you’re not sure of.”

In the meantime, Atty. Litwin noted that Lisa Hahn, the Authority’s grants administrator, has offered to attend the commissioners work sessions, generally held on the Thursdays following regular meetings, to answer any questions they may have.

Other Business

Henry noted that a new courthouse flagpole has been erected on the west lawn. As they spoke, county employees Brian Ball and Jerry Dymond were in the process of installing new flood lights for the flag, which was currently at half mast in observance of National Police Week. The area around the old flag pole will be utilized as a “demonstration garden” by local master gardeners, said Mead.

County planner Lynnelle Farber stopped by to press the commissioners for a meeting date to address the Iroquois Trail east of Tunkhannock, for which several land easements have yet to be finalized. The meeting was set for Tuesday, May 29, after the commissioners meeting.

Electronic Recycling will be held at the Tunkhannock Township Building this Saturday, May 19, from 9 am to noon.

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