Wilkes-Barre resident Tim Grier told Luzerne County Commissioners he is willing to drop his legal challenge over the county’s borrowing of up to $93.5 million if the county explains in detail how the money will be spent.
Grier said Friday his offer was not motivated by doubts about the strength of his case. He said his lawyer, Alfred R. Cowger Jr., suggested the offer as a gesture of negotiating in good faith.
County officials told Grier during Thursday’s commissioner meeting the county has no power to negotiate a settlement because Grier’s legal challenge has been filed against the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the government body that gives counties clearance to take on additional debt.
However, Grier said he would withdraw the complaint against the state if he is satisfied with the county’s explanation.
Wilkes-Barre attorney Pete Moses, who is handling the county’s bond borrowing legal matters, on Friday declined to say if the county will accept Grier’s offer. Moses said he finds it "curious" that Grier wants to settle at this stage and is surprised Grier went public with his interest in settling.
Moses said he’s confident commissioners will do what’s in the best interest of the county.
Commissioner Greg Skrepenak told Grier Thursday night that county officials had already attempted to meet with him to outline plans for the money. He said the state understood how the county planned to use the money and approved the borrowing.
"Simply because you don’t like that answer, does it mean we’re wrong? I don’t think so," Skrepenak said, further complaining that the county’s credit rating has started to slide during the delay created by Grier’s challenge.
Minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban said Friday that Skrepenak is off base by blaming Grier for a credit rating decline because the rating is based on the county’s ability to pay bills and its debt load.
Grier said he believes the state failed to do its homework when approving the borrowing. His attorney has outlined an extensive list of information that should be supplied by the county if it chooses to accept his offer of a meeting.
The letter stresses that Grier can’t legally challenge the spending simply because he doesn’t like their selection.
For example, Grier said he wants to see appraisals and documentation showing the county thoroughly researched plans to use $2.5 million of the bond to buy land from Theta Land Corp. Grier said his personal opinion on the merits of the purchase can’t weigh into his legal challenge.
"I’m not the fourth county commissioner. I understand that," Grier said.