Luzerne County Council member criticizes colleague’s “threatening behavior”

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]




    Luzerne County Councilman Robert Schnee publicly apologized for pounding his fist on the table and making a comment involving a bazooka during Tuesday’s county council meeting, but Councilwoman Kathy Dobash, the target of his frustration, said Thursday that she isn’t dropping the matter.

    Schnee’s statement stemmed from a debate over Dobash’s proposal to reprimand county Manager C. David Pedri for mailing tax bills to 1,400 property owners flagged as incorrect homestead tax break recipients before the council decided if fees and interest should be charged. A council majority on Tuesday voted against both the manager reprimand and addition of fees and interest.

    “People on this council should be reprimanded,” Schnee had said, slamming down his fist and describing how people approach him everywhere he goes praising Pedri for the “great job he did turning around the county.”

    “You want to come after them? Bring a bazooka because you’re gonna have to go through me,” he said.

    In an email Thursday to her council colleagues, Dobash asked why she was “forced to handle the threatening behavior and bizarre ‘bazooka’ comment from a council member.” She also said Schnee’s explanation and apology later in that meeting were “not enough.”

    “I still must question the inappropriate physical and threatening manner in which comments were directed on me,” Dobash wrote.

    In response to her email Thursday, Schnee said he stands by his apology and defense of the administration.

    During Tuesday’s meeting, Schnee commended Pedri and said he was “totally upset” about an attempt to reprimand a “man that changed this county in eight months with his team.” Pedri has served as interim manager and then permanent manager following prior manager Robert Lawton’s December 2015 resignation.

    “Let’s jump on board and let’s move the place positive instead of nitpicking and looking for him to screw up,” Schnee said.

    He said Pedri and division heads in the audience are “doing a great job” and told them to pass that message to their workers.

    Dobash addressed Schnee’s statements at the podium during public comment, asserting she has the right to recommend a “little slap-on-the-wrist letter of reprimand.” She criticized Schnee’s fist-slam and “very loud, intimidating bully tactics.”

    “I am a survivor of domestic violence, and I will not be intimidated by any male citizen, other elected authority or whatever. I will not,” she said.

    Schnee apologized for “getting loud.”

    “I have utmost respect for you. At no time was I trying to intimidate you,” he told Dobash, prompting her to reach over to shake his hand.

    Schnee said he is not a politician, gets “very passionate” and wears his heart on his sleeve.

    “What you see is what you get,” he said.

    He also apologized to the public and his council colleagues and said his bazooka reference was “totally out of line.”

    “But I’ll stand there with anybody that’s doing their job. It was just the passion that was coming out,” he said.

    Pedri said he authorized the mailing of the bills but did not believe they would be mailed until Aug. 11, or two days after the Aug. 9 council meeting when the ordinance proposing fees and interest was introduced. He said he would have alerted the council at that meeting if he had known the bills had been mailed earlier than expected on Aug. 8.

    He urged the council to focus on their teamwork to resolve the homestead problem, starting with the council’s discovery that some property owners had been wrongly receiving more than the permissible tax break on one primary residence.

    Council members Stephen A. Urban and Edward Brominski were the lone supporters of Dobash’s proposal, with both saying the council must hold the executive branch accountable.

    In her email Thursday, Dobash said the “suggestion of weapons and physical aggression has only made me stronger to present and direct my point of view.”

    “I will continue to challenge the Luzerne County manager. I will do it without fear,” she wrote.



    By Jennifer Learn-Andes

    [email protected]

    Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

    Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

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