W-B Council Members Seek To Clarify Proof Of Residency Requirement For City Employees
WILKES-BARRE — City council plans to review the issue of employee residency after a city resident and a councilwoman raised concerns about where the city’s new director of economic and community development lives.
John Suchoski, a regular attendee at council meetings, referred during public comment on Thursday to a Facebook post by Councilwoman Beth Gilbert that questioned Joyce Morrash Zaykowski’s residency.
Mayor Tony George in February 2016 hired Zaykowski to a newly created capital projects program manager position, which he recently said replaced an assistant director of operations position.
George promoted Zaykowski to her current position last month when longtime employee Kurt Sauer retired. George said Zaykowski would perform the duties of economic and community development director as well as capital projects manager.
The city charter requires that all city employees reside within the city or move there within six months of hire. Only unionized police and fire employees are exempt from the requirement.
The Citizens’ Voice in late January asked Zaykowski why a campaign report for George denoting a November campaign contribution from her listed a Shavertown address.
Zaykowski had explained that the donation check was written on her husband’s bank account, and that he legally resides in Shavertown while she lives in the home she owns in Wilkes-Barre.
Gilbert in February shared a media report on Facebook about the campaign report and the issue of Zaykowski’s residency, and she questioned Zaykowski’s response.
“So, let me get this straight. Your husband lives in Shavertown, your children live in Shavertown, but you live in Wilkes-Barre and you ‘go to the house in Shavertown’ sometimes — all for a job that wasn’t handmade for you,” Gilbert wrote. “It isn’t fair to other city employees that Ms. Zaykowski is blatantly excused from living in the city.”
Zaykowski had not mentioned in January that she had school-aged children and, when questioned Thursday after the meeting, said her “family is off-limits.”
Zaykowski also said she’s lived in the Wilkes-Barre house since her divorce and had been caring for her father, who also lived there, since her mother died several years ago.
“I don’t know if she lives in the city or if there are other employees who also aren’t living in the city, but is there a way we can investigate?” Suchoski asked council Thursday.
Councilman Bill Barrett said a review of the residency language in the city charter and code is warranted “because there’s some ambiguity (and) vagueness … about what quantifies as living in the city.”
City Attorney Tim Henry said he would review the charter and city code.
Council Chairman Tony Brooks said he agreed, and thinks “it’s up to the (human resources) department to look into it, and I hope that they do.”
Suchoski asked Brooks if council can use its investigative powers to resolve the issue “because I think it’s a real issue and I think it’s more than one person.”
Gilbert said council “should take a look, but we probably need to have language in place before we go forward.”
“I know private investigators have been hired in the past for city employees who have been rumored to not live in the city. And to make it clear, you’re right; it’s not just one, it’s not just her, and it’s frustrating,” Gilbert said.
Suchoski said some employees might be paying taxes in the city, but they’re “not part of the community. That’s why I thought you’re supposed to live in the city, because you’re supposed to be part of the community 100 percent, not just 50.”
Zaykowski said she “was born and raised in Wilkes-Barre,” attended Dodson Elementary and Meyers High schools and graduated from Wilkes University.
She found it “ironic” that Suchoski would question her residency when he saw her vote at Dodson when he was running for Wilkes-Barre Area School Board last year.
Zaykowski also said she had a “much higher-paying job,” but went to work for the city because “I wanted to be on Tony’s team, to help him and to help the city.”
“I do this job because I want to do this job, not because I need it,” she said.
In other business, council:
• Passed on first reading an ordinance increasing the fees at Hollenback Golf Course. A final vote is scheduled for March 22, and the fees could be re-adjusted before the vote.
•Denied a request to transfer a liquor license from a former bar in Hanover Township to La Villa, a restaurant and bottle club at South Main Plaza.
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Council also: • Approved a request to lease athletic fields for a traveling youth baseball tournament. • Approved agreements with the state Department of Transportation to hire Alfred Bensch Co. to perform engineering work on the North Washington Street Bridge replacement project.