Luzerne County assistant district attorney terminated

Michael Melnick fired from part-time position

By Jennifer Learn-Andes -

Michael Melnick fired from part-time position

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Michael Melnick was fired from his job as a part-time Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney on March 1, a new county personnel report shows.

Melnick, who was paid $45,433 in the county position, said Wednesday he cannot discuss the matter and referred comment on the reason to county District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.

Salavantis said she can’t comment on the firing because it is a confidential personnel matter.

The termination was disclosed on the county manager’s March personnel report posted on the county website this week.

The county administration was not directly involved in Melnick’s termination because the district attorney has the statutory right to hire, discharge, discipline and supervise her employees.

Melnick was previously placed on administrative leave in 2014 pending review of another unrelated matter, but he later returned to work, county officials said.

Salavantis had placed Melnick on paid administrative leave in 2014 shortly after local news media published stories about him visiting a female inmate at the county prison, according to media reports at the time.

The district attorney confirmed in September 2014 that Melnick was offered a Loudermill hearing, a proceeding afforded to public employees who are entitled to due process before the employer makes a decision on termination or disciplinary action.

Although Melnick eventually returned to work, it’s unclear when and if there were any disciplinary actions against him.

County employees suspended both with and without pay, including suspensions for a single day, were publicly reported under the prior county government system, but that information has not been included in public personnel reports since the January 2012 implementation of home rule.

Melnick said in a 2014 radio interview that he was in a relationship with the inmate and visited her to discuss legal advice on civil issues she was facing, although he stressed he was not representing her. He had estimated the number of visits at three, but prison visitor logs showed Melnick visited the inmate nine times over a 10-day period, published reports said.

News archives show Melnick has tried several high-profile criminal cases since he was hired as first assistant district attorney under District Attorney Jerome Cohen in the early 1990s, including the prosecution of Joseph Kerekes and Harlow Cuadra in the killing of Bryan Kocis in Dallas Township in 2009.

He had left the office in 1992 when Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. took over as district attorney but returned as a part-time assistant district attorney when David W. Lupas was elected district attorney in 1999, records show.

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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