City Council Rejects Land Bank

Land Bank Update
August 19, 2015

Hazleton lacks the financial resources and manpower for launching and maintaining a local land bank program, council members said when formally rejecting the proposal Tuesday.

With Luzerne County officials considering their own land bank program and a regional land bank program currently serving Pittston and at least four other municipalities, Hazleton City Council members say they want to take a wait-and-see approach before launching a local program.

Council ultimately voted 3-1 when nixing a land bank program and ordinance introduced by Councilman Jeff Cusat. Councilman Keith Bast did not attend.

“The City of Hazleton is in financial difficulty right now,” Councilman Dave Sosar said prior to the vote. “How are we going to come up with extra money to develop a land bank? I’m very hesitant. I’m not saying it’s not a good idea. I’m saying it’s a good idea on a larger level.”

President Jack Mundie agreed with Sosar, saying that while he doesn’t oppose the concept of a land bank, he questioned the timing of Cusat’s proposal and whether the city would be in a better position to address blighted and tax-delinquent properties by passing laws designed to bring properties owned by financial institutions up to code.

“I think that it’s a good tool that could probably help the city, but you need money, resources (and) people,” Mundie said of land banks. “I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. I’m not totally against it. Maybe it’s something that should be addressed later.”

Council Vice President Jean Mope, meanwhile, said the city should wait and see whether Luzerne County creates its own land bank program and possibly follow through with an idea pitched by audience members about having Hazleton participate in the county’s initiative.

“The county gets better funding,” Mope said. “If we pursue it and run short on funding I don’t want it to fall back on taxpayers.”

Mope also said she had concerns about how the city would come up with start-up funds — and said the city administrator made a similar point when she questioned him about finances.

Cusat told council that he doesn’t want to squander an opportunity to team with Pennsylvania Housing Alliance, which has committed to helping the city establish a local land bank even though it faces it own set of financial challenges in 2016 and beyond.

The councilman also publicly questioned Luzerne County’s willingness to help the city should it create a county-run program.

“If we pass an ordinance, they’re willing to help us … with the legal (aspects),” Cusat said. “The county is never going to give us anything. We’re always going to be the kid with the short stick.”

Disappointed with the outcome, Cusat lashed out at council for passing on the program.

“I spent two years working on the land bank,” Cusat said. “They were well aware it was in the process (of being organized). It seems to me that everybody wants to be a follower and see what everybody else is doing. No one wants to come up with ideas and be innovative. We don’t need to wait around to see what other cities are doing. If you never try it, you’ll never know if it works.”

Cusat pitched the land bank as an efficient and cost effective means of returning blighted and tax-delinquent properties back on the tax rolls.

According to the ordinance, the land bank would return “vacant, blighted, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties to productive use.” The city and its redevelopment authority would identify surplus vacant properties for the land bank to acquire.

It would acquire a property through donation, purchase or any other legal means, including tax sale, judicial sale or by transfer from Luzerne County Tax Claim Bureau.

The land bank will hold properties in its name and could opt to sell them to a developer and set a deadline for renovations and returning it to the tax rolls or can take smaller parcels and offer to split them among two neighboring property owners — and have the land maintained and put back on the tax rolls, Cusat said.

At least six audience members who spoke about Cusat’s land bank proposal either offered alternatives or asked council to delay a vote until county council decides whether to move forward with a similar program.

Attendee Dee Deakos asked what the land bank would do differently than Hazleton Redevelopment Authority, which has been working to renovate and sell properties in the East End neighborhood.

Audience member Mark Rabo told council that while federal Community Development funds can be used to fund a land bank program, the land bank must specify the intended use for each property before it can expend the funds. Rabo called on council to allow the city’s blighted property and redevelopment authority boards to perform their duties before considering a local land bank program.

Audience member Grace Cuozzo said the program will create unnecessary property maintenance costs and urged the city to continue on its path of using Neighborhood Stabilization Program and HOME grants for renovating properties.

County council candidate Ray Gustave urged council to delay a vote until the county decides on its program. Steve Franco of the Northeast Realtors Group argued that land banks should not be competing for properties with the private sector.

Mundie thanked Franco and Gustave for their comments and publicly lobbied for voters to support county council candidates Gustave, Rabo and Robert Schnee in the upcoming election.




Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.