County Council Approves Contract With Lobbying Firm
WILKES-BARRE — A Harrisburg-based lobbying firm will represent Luzerne County’s interests in the state capitol starting next month.
County council on Tuesday approved an agreement with Maverick Strategies, which will receive $5,000 per month to help the county obtain funding for looming big-ticket projects such as new voting machines and a digital communication system for the county 911 emergency center.
Council voted 7-3 to approve the agreement, which runs from May 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 — the end of the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
The issue sparked lively debate at Tuesday’s council voting session, at which executives of Maverick Strategies made their case to council members.
A council majority supported county Manager David Pedri’s position that the firm will provide the county with a constant presence among lawmakers in Harrisburg, where state and federal funding is fiercely competitive.
Council members Linda McClosky Houck, Harry Haas and Stephen A. Urban argued against hiring a lobbying firm and voted no on the proposal. Councilwoman Sheila Saidman was absent.
Maverick Strategies founding partner Ray Zaborney told council his firm has “a long record of working with clients” that include the city of Harrisburg, and has worked with the 10 state lawmakers who represent portions of Luzerne County.
However, the firm does not represent any other counties in the state, he said.
Councilwoman Jane Walsh Waitkus asked Zaborney what the county would receive in return for its money.
“We like to think of ourselves as the folks who re-focus folks down there,” Zaborney said. “We have clients who will vouch for us ... we are good value for what we charge.”
According to the agreement, Maverick Strategies’ main focus will be to find funding for the 911 communication system upgrade, which officials have estimated could cost $20 million.
Houck, Haas and Urban said the county should not need to hire a lobbyist to get help from full-time lawmakers who already make a good salary to represent the county.
“I just think it’s kind of a sad day to see that government is looking at a lobbyist to lobby the government,” Houck said.
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