In Letter To County Officials, Judge Jarbola Claims Agreement Guaranteeing ADA Raises Was Reached

January 12, 2018

In a recent letter to Lackawanna County officials, county Judge Andy Jarbola said an agreement guaranteeing three years of 7 percent annual raises for county assistant district attorneys was reached in late 2015 and that he would testify to that claim if need be. The Times-Tribune reported this past Friday that the county would not give the attorneys 7 percent raises this year as no agreement guaranteeing the pay hikes was ever put in writing. Jarbola, who was district attorney when the deal was allegedly reached, refused to comment for that story, citing his job as a judge. Nonetheless, in a Jan. 5 letter obtained by the newspaper — which was addressed to commissioners Patrick O’Malley, Jerry Notarianni and Laureen Cummings and also sent to District Attorney Mark Powell and First Assistant District Attorney Gene Riccardo — Jarbola described the terms of the agreement he said was reached in December of 2015, just before he left the office to become a judge. In exchange for the attorneys not unionizing, “the County Commissioners agreed to give 7 percent raises to all assistant district attorneys for the next three (3) years of 2016, 2017 and 2018,” Jarbola wrote in the letter. “That agreement was acknowledged at the time by Commissioners James Wansacz, Ed Staback and Patrick O’Malley.” Reached last month, Staback said he did not recall striking any such deal with Jarbola. Wansacz declined to comment, citing his current role as director of the Scranton-Lackawanna Human Development Agency’s weatherization program. Efforts to reach O’Malley were unsuccessful Thursday. In the letter, Jarbola said Notarianni was aware of the agreement and that Cummings was made aware of it shortly after taking office in 2016. The agreement was honored in 2016 and 2017, Jarbola wrote, noting assistant district attorneys did not unionize, which he feels is evidence of the deal. The county’s official position is that raises paid to assistant district attorneys in 2016 and 2017 were not tied to any specific agreement, and that a non-written agreement between elected officials no longer in office is not binding. That position has not changed in light of Jarbola’s letter, Chief of Staff Andy Wallace said. County records show assistant district attorneys received a range of raises in 2016 and 2017, with some more than and some less than 7 percent. Jarbola wrote he was “extremely disheartened” to learn several officials, including O’Malley and Cummings, “could not recall” the agreement at a county salary board meeting last month. Cummings said Wednesday she was “fully aware” that a conversation involving assistant district attorney raises had taken place in 2015 between Jarbola and county commissioners at the time. Nonetheless, current commissioners agreed to give the assistant district attorneys raises in 2017 because the office was able to cut spending within its budget to cover the pay hikes, not because they were bound by an agreement, Cummings said. She is willing work with the office on future salary adjustments “if they show me a savings in their department,” she said. Wallace also expressed the commissioners’ willingness to work with the office on salary adjustments, as long as it doesn’t cost the county or the taxpayers any additional money. All nonunion county employees, including the attorneys, will receive 2.5 percent raises this year. Meanwhile, if the dispute over raises ends up in court, Jarbola is willing to testify that the agreement was reached. “Please be advised that if any legal action occurs on behalf of the Assistant District Attorneys of Lackawanna County, I would be willing to testify as to my recollection of events surrounding this matter,” he wrote in the letter. Contact the writer: jhorvath@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9141; @jhorvathTT on Twitter