Political Blogger Hired For W-B Health Educator Post
WILKES-BARRE — Mayor Tony George hired a local political blogger and commentator with a background in government and health care for a health educator post that opened upon the controversial retirement of a former city administrator.
David Yonki, 64, of Wilkes-Barre, was hired to fill the post of Jim Hayward, who retired about five months after his March 26 start date this year. Hayward had served as a city administrator, deputy administrator and community development director during former mayor Tom McGroarty’s administration, and as a city firefighter before that.
Working just one day on the job qualified Hayward for an annual pension of $18,391. That’s in addition to his firefighter disability pension of $10,015.
City Administrator Ted Wampole said Yonki’s first day on the job was Nov. 13, and he’ll receive the same state-funded annual salary that Hayward did — $26,390.
There’s no indication that Yonki ever previously worked for the city.
Wampole said the health educator position was advertised and Yonki was one of three or four applicants interviewed by a committee consisting of Wampole and representatives of the human resources and health departments.
Asked if the committee’s recommendation of Yonki to the mayor was unanimous, Wampole said the committee forwarded the names of several candidates to the mayor for his consideration “and let him know what we thought.” He declined to be more specific, calling it “a personnel matter.”
“He comes well-qualified, with a degree in government and a background in health care,” Wampole said of Yonki. “I’ve heard him speak on several occasions. He’s very well-spoken and presents a clear message, and that’s important for a health educator. I think he’s going to be an outstanding addition to the city hall employees.”
Yonki did not immediately respond to email and Facebook messages seeking comment.
Wampole said Yonki has a bachelor of arts degree in government and communications from King’s College and did course work at Luzerne County Community College in Health Care Management. He also was on a subcommittee for the Health Systems Agency when hospitals began to merge in the 1970s.
Yonki also worked on the Planning and Allocation Committee at United Way of Wyoming Valley, dealing with recreation and health care agencies. He is a former Member Services representative at Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Last spring, under his direction as chair of the President John F. Kennedy Council No. 372 Family Committee, he organized an opioid fact forum that drew a standing-room-only crowd at the Pittston Library, Wampole said.
Yonki’s LinkedIn profile notes that he also is the author of the LuLac Political Letter blog as well as several books, that he’s a political analyst for WBRE TV’s “PA Live” program and a post-election commentator for the station’s “Eyewitness News Daybreak” show, and that he has been a panelist and political commentator for WYOU and WYLN.
Wampole said Yonki’s role in politics “did not even enter into the decision expressed by the (hiring) committee.” He said Yonki would have to follow the city’s social media guidelines, and he would not be prevented from exercising his First Amendment rights.
Asked if Yonki’s political influence played any part in the mayor’s decision to hire him, Wampole declined to answer, calling it an unfair question to ask him.
George did not return a message seeking comment.
Contact the writer: