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I-Team: Two Luzerne County Election Board members removed by county council

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A controversy is unfolding in Luzerne County over the removal of three members of the county’s election board by city council.

The election board helps oversee the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections. County council member Stephen Urban was selected as chairperson of the election board, a decision which may have violated the county’s home rule charter.

“Well, obviously it’s not a good situation,” Luzerne County Council Chairperson Tim McGinley said. “We’re not happy with it but we’ll do the things we have to to correct it and make it better.”

McGinley says the appointment of Urban as chairman of the Luzerne County Board of Elections, after he was selected by now former members Joyce Dombroski-Gebhardt and Keith Gould was in violation of the county’s rules. He is joined by nine other council members that say Urban’s selection could not stand because under the county’s home rule charter, a county council member cannot be appointed to the election board. The election board voted unanimously to remove Dombroski-Gebhardt, Gould and Urban.

“I believe that’s a clear violation of the Luzerne County charter and that’s what precipitated the action that took place,” McGinley said.

The Luzerne County Election Board is usually comprised of four members, two Democrats and two Republicans, all selected by the Luzerne County Council. Those four members then select a chairperson who becomes the fifth member of the board.

However, earlier this year, the board was reduced to three members after two members resigned, both citing personal reasons. Urban tells the I-Team that he will fight his removal from the election board.

“Now the legal question I would have is how does one board who had no standing in the appointment remove a board member, namely me because they did not actually approve me? County Council did not appoint me it was actually the board of elections that appointed me,” Urban said.

Urban says he has a plan but isn’t ready to talk about it.

“Actually right now I’m not going to disclose anything at this point as far as my next action may or may not be,” Urban said. “I’ll leave that for whatever occurs in the next few days, potentially next week,” Urban said.

Luzerne County Assistant Solicitor says Urban sent him an email saying he was not recognizing his removal from the board.

“I call it buffoonery, it’s just nonsense and not necessary,” Deluca said.

In the meantime, county council is advertising for new board members. Timing is crucial because the May primary election is fast approaching.

“Well, I think if we were able to move as swiftly as next Tuesday I think it will have very little impact. So, it’s very important we get some volunteers to come forward in that capacity on that board,” McGinley said.

Dombroski-Gebhardt had no comment on the matter and Gould did not return a call seeking comment. Countil council hopes to interview board candidates on Monday night and possibly make appointments at their meeting on Tuesday.

The election board does not run the day-to-day operations. It does help approve ballots, changes to polling places and certifies the election results.

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