Urban Calls For Probe Of Pedri Remarks
HAZLE TWP. — Tuesday’s meeting of Luzerne County Council turned heated when Councilman Stephen A. Urban called for an investigation into county Manager David Pedri’s allegedly political comments to county employees, as quoted in a recently released book on the 2016 presidential election.
Urban said he was dismayed by comments Pedri made to author Ben Bradlee Jr., who interviewed Pedri for his book “The Forgotten: How the People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump and Changed America.”
Urban referenced a recent article about the book in The Citizens’ Voice, in which Pedri is quoted as saying he suggested to county corrections officers prior to the 2016 election that voting for Donald Trump for president would be against their economic self-interest.
“There is nothing in his duties that says he is a political animal,” Urban said. “It’s not in his duties to say who to vote for.”
Pedri’s comments in Bradlee’s book “need to be looked into by our district attorney,” Urban said. The county solicitor’s office and county council should also investigate, Urban said.
Pedri vigorously disputed Urban’s claims of wrongdoing. He said he spoke strictly as a private citizen, not as county manager, when he discussed politics with corrections officers or anyone else.
He said he never tried to influence anyone’s vote through his authority as a county official, and told Urban he was “on notice” that his allegation is “a falsehood.”
“Mr. Urban has served the county for ... years,” Pedri said. “He’s made numerous ridiculous statements. I just heard another one.”
The nine other council members present did not comment on Urban’s call for an investigation. Councilman Edward Brominski was absent.
Urban and Pedri continued to make their case to reporters after council recessed into executive session to discuss the “special legal” line of the proposed 2019 budget for the county solicitor’s office.
“The DA needs to look into his comment,” said Urban, who refused to take part in the executive session because he said he felt it was improper. “It’s not his place to tell people who they should vote for.”
Pedri, who was appointed county manager in 2016, repeated his statement that Urban’s claims were ridiculous.
“I’ve made it three years without being drug into the political mud by Mr. Urban,” Pedri said. “He took his shot tonight.”
Council also held a public hearing on the proposed 2019 county budget proposal, which Pedri unveiled two weeks ago. The proposed $140.95 million balanced budget calls for a 3 percent property tax increase.
Mark Rabo, of Hazleton, was the only citizen to speak at the hearing. The county should put off borrowing millions of dollars for upgrades to voting machines and the 911 communications system until officials find out if state and federal funding is available, Rabo said.
Neither of those expenditures is included in next year’s budget proposal, but paying off the interest on the borrowing would impact budgets for years to come, Rabo said.
Council will hold a budget work session at 5 p.m. on Oct. 30 at the county courthouse, on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre.
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