Interim Westmoreland election chief handed bonus as search for new director restarts

Jan. 4—The search to fill the vacant director's job at the Westmoreland County Election Bureau will begin anew as work in advance of the 2022 primary will continue to be overseen by the county's public works head.

Commissioners this week gave a $5,000 bonus to Greg McCloskey, who since last summer has served as an interim director of elections in addition to his other duties, which include overseeing county road crews, parks and other public works programs.

The bonus was for McCloskey's work in 2021, according to commissioners.

McCloskey was tabbed to assist to election bureau operations last spring as preparations for the May primary moved into high gear. Following the firing of the department's director JoAnn Sebastiani in June, he was again placed in charge on an interim basis along with Scott Ross, the county's computer information systems director.

Sebastiani was fired after less than a year on the job over what commissioners said were numerous administrative failures and personnel difficulties they said impacted both the 2020 General Election and last spring's primary.

Sebastiani has since filed a federal lawsuit that alleged she was fired for political reasons and was a victim of a hostile workplace.

Meanwhile, the director's job has remained open and an initial job search was aborted in late September. Commissioners said they wanted the reorganized election bureau, which added an office manager and quality assurance supervisor, to focus on last fall's municipal election.

"We have to resume the search in 2022 and all options are on the table to see what we are going to do," said Commissioner Doug Chew.

Management issues have plagued the election bureau since the resignation in August 2020 of longtime director Beth Lechman following a disagreement with commissioners. Lechman was hired last year to run the election department in Centre County.

Westmoreland was one of five counties last fall without an elections director, according to state officials.

Officials claim changes to election laws in Pennsylvania, including the use of no-excuse mail-in ballots and an increasing politically charged atmosphere, has made the election bureau job hard to fill.

"It's an ongoing process and we're not alone," said Commissioner Gina Cerilli Thrasher. "This is not the same election bureau as it was five years ago. We want to be sure we can find the right candidate."

Commissioners have praised McCloskey's work and said he has been a steady hand in overseeing the election bureau in his temporary assignment. McCloskey has indicated he is not interested in taking over the department's directorship on a full-time basis.

It is unclear when, if any interviews for the job will be conducted.

"We would like to have a new director there before the next election comes up," said Commissioner Sean Kertes.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, or via Twitter .