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Here’s The Scoop…LBTS Commission Meeting …#8…Retainage…Straightening Out The Legal Expenses….


Dear Readers…After going round and round over the debt…the Finance Report (agenda item 6 a)….switched gears as the Mayor brought up the Town’s  legal expenses…She relayed that there was much concern from her constituents with the Bert J. Harris suits and the ability for the Town to cover the cost…As Mayor,  it must often be frustrating to have to wait for your turn to add your 2 cents… This was one of those times…The Mayor pointed out that according to the Finance Report (April 2009) the Town had budgeted (just for legal) $110,000 …She had a momentary lapse in getting out the figure used thus far and was “jumped” on by all those around her…She quickly cleared it up to say we had to date (April) spent $105,371. for legal only (not including the lower columns of “other” legal expenses…The Town Manager said that the amount the Mayor was speaking of was a part of the legal budget…of last year saying it was $110 on a retainer…even though there is no longer a retainer with our current law firm…it is still listed in the report this way…and will most likely be changed in the new budget…if no retainer is enacted….The Manager said the “other” legal made the total $235,000….and we have $125,000 left…The Mayor said she was getting there…and explained again it was in”light of the four summons” and residents wanting to know what was there to cover the cost of representing the Town….

The Vice Mayor said he wanted to “clarify” the $110,000 was for a retainer…The Town Manager again said it was…the Vice Mayor then said we were giving the last Atty. “$110,000 for doing nothing!”…(The hall erupted in laughter)…He said “Now we have a situation where we have a Town Attorney has billed $105,000 we aren’t into the Town retainer for last year so we’re ahead of last year, Is that correct?”…The Manager answered him by saying “Somebody asked, for a 12 month measure and at that point in time we saved about $200,000” The VM asked her  “with the new law firm billing the hours (no retainer) we’re looking at a a projected savings of how much, approximately? …( The hall again erupted in laughter…due to his trying to prove it is the right move not to have a law firm on retainer)….The Town Manager responded ” I can’t say. That 12 month period was approximately $200,000 savings. I think what we need to everybody remember was that was when this firm came on board we have a lot of code rewrites a lot or and development unified rewrites. We’ve done a lot of work that hasn’t been done in years before. Once we finish hopefully all the first readings, second readings and everything we’ve been doing you’ll probably see a bigger decrease. Now I’m not gonna say that we don’t have future expense and that’s  something the Town Attorney will talk about with the summons that we received bu currently we have savings funds.” The Mayor asked for all on the dais to please show some respect and allow her to finish what she has to say …Comm. Dodd said he had one question, he wanted to point out that we were overlooking the difference in the salaries of the previous Town law firm vs. the present Town law firm…saying they are substantially different and that too makes it a very difficult comparison to make…The Town Manager responded ” I cannot tell you exact but, I can tell you that the retainage (Is retainage a word?) alone, only the retainage was $9,999.00 a month for our prior attorney and that was just the retainage and Weiss, Serota you know the long name they have does not charge a retainer, they just charge on hourly work. Now you know that Goren, and Cherof and Goren have their retainer plus their billable. The retainer was for attending meetings, was for speaking on the phone with us , speaking to commissioners but in a 12 month comparison and it was just a plain 12 months we saved about $200,000 which we’ll probably be saving more not counting the summon. Because we’ve done a lot of work with the code.” Comm. Dodd said he accepted what the Town Manager said but he wanted all to know we were probably paying Weiss, Serota about half the amount of  what we paid Cherof….

BC- Readers should recall (previous posts)…The current firm is not on retainer due to the fact that we were faced with a handpicked law firm, handpicked by the Town Manager…( 3 firms responded to the RFP) She put her foot down and balked about putting out a second round of RFPs for more law firms to respond…(other towns had up to 40 responses)… She cited the looming budget coming up. It was to be the “opening salvo” ….her M.O. of running the Town with ultimatums if not getting her way!…It’s her upside down concept of where she sits in the government “pecking order” that states… Citizens- Commissioners-Manager …She runs the Town ….Manager-Commissioner- Citizens….With McIntee/Silverstone and the Mayor behind her at the time……(Clottey and Dodd wanted the 2nd RFP)…we were left with Dan Abbott of Weiss Serota …To appease those concerned about this action, it was decided to retain ( pun intended) the firm on an hourly rate, with no contract…for an easy out…The Future’s has written an editorial and many agree that it is time to put out another RFP and let Weiss, Serota compete. It is time to get a law firm on retainer….Much of the “savings” has been as Comm. Dodd stated from a big difference in the salaries…along with the Town Manager deciding what goes to the Town firm…(as previously posted)…former Weiss, Serota  Town Atty. Abbott often revealed his firm did not have a hand in drafting various codes, ordinances and resolutions…leaving them substandard…and making it necessary to go back to the drawing board…( The staff wrote them)…Also, the Town Manager ( along with the VM) severely curtailed any open access for the Commissioners in contacting the Town Atty……A look at the contract for the VFD showed early on a huge difference in the service of the two firms…( unless that too was written by staff?)..

In conclusion…anybody who knows this writer knows, there is no love for the former Town Atty. but the plain truth is there is a glaring difference in the work done on behalf of the Town as shown with dais instruction or lack thereof, as well as drafted ordinances and contracts etc….Now that we are faced with the Bert J. Harris suits…the rubber will really hit the road on getting what we pay for!…

Is there an Orthodontist in the house ?

more to come…

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