Monday, March 1, 2010

The meter is running

If you are an attorney practicing municipal law in Montgomery County, you might want to float your resume in front of Lower Providence's new Board of Supervisors.

Not content to have the customary one firm appointed as solicitor representing the interests of the Township, they saw  fit to hire an additional, 'special' counsel, to 'review' (read: attempt to undo) the December 7 award of the latest five-year trash hauling contract to J.P. Mascaro & Sons.  Rick Brown and Chris DiPaolo were the only two of the five-member Board who discussed documenting the resolution that was put in front of all five for a vote that evening.  Rick, Chris and new member Don Thomas (who, judging by the deer-in-the-headlights look that always seems to be pasted on his face, probably had no idea what he was looking at) voted for the extra legal hire. The ladies voted against it.

All this 'reviewing' has a price tag of approximately $150/hour for nonlitigation work and $175/hour for litigation in addition to the charges our regular solicitor, Michael Sheridan, charges.

And this is a litigious group of people, our new Board of Supervisors. Between them, as of the last time I looked at the various dockets, Chris, Colleen, and Don have 10 (10!) attorneys working for them on other matters, and that's not counting the ones they just hired with your tax dollars.  That total doesn't include the guy Rick Brown hired last year to file his 'friend of the court' brief in the American Revolution Center case - which he filed AFTER they decided to leave and despite his position already being put on the record when he testified as a witness in the case. Oh wait...I think that was filed by Mr. Sheridan, before he became solicitor this year.  Geesh, I can't keep track.

Mrs. Eckman even sued the lawyers that originally represented her in the Mascaro case, seeking to have other attorneys permitted to represent her - rumour has it, a relative - and lost. She's appealing that decision...of course. She is, after all, one of the folks that helped chase the American Revolution Center out of town, so this is probably a walk in the park for her.

On top of that, the Board of Supervisors just directed Mr. Sheridan to intervene in a recent Zoning Hearing Board case in order to appeal it, because, allegedly, our new Board of Supervisors did not agree with it. This, despite the fact that one of the neighbors who originally opposed the applicant's plans (and by his own admission bankrolled the hefty cost of his litigation himself to the tune of $60K and counting)  has already filed an appeal of his own. He certainly doesn't need the Township to sue on his behalf.

This is all the more outrageous because the Township really isn't aggrieved; a lot that had been an eyesore and a longtime public nuisance was cleaned up, junk hauled out, buildings that were in disrepair were rehabilitated. It appears to be more or less an attempt to appease yet another special interest down in 'the Thumb'.

In fact, the irony  is that because errors or oversights were determined to have been made by the Township relative to the history of that property, and the applicant in the zoning case relied upon them, the Township could be culpable. The Township, in intervening, may actually be making the applicant's case for damages against the Township for him should he lose on appeal.  They certainly didn't get involved to defend their staff.  Bottom line: your tax dollars may well wind up being being spent to lead to more of your tax dollars being paid out in damages.

And let's not forget the lawyers. They make money no matter who wins or loses.

I can't imagine how much money Lower Providence will shell out in legal fees for what are arguably frivolous lawsuits over the next six years if this pace continues. As the rest of the county is painfully aware, we are in a severe recession and can ill afford to waste precious resident tax dollars - dollars that aren't flying into the coffers like they used to - on contracts that were lawfully awarded, unnecessary appeals and redundant briefs.


Trooper Mary said...

You would not have the balls to print a reply to your crazyness. Are your a resident of Norristown State?

Anonymous said...

Ms. Kearney:
As a current member of the ZHB and last years Chairman, I would really like to know where you are going with all the attacks on our elected officials? There are no board positons open for another two or three years so your continuous negative campaigning can not be the reason. It it that you are just an unhappy woman with life in general?
Betty McF.
Audubon, Pa

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you about your article. Rick brown is waisting tons of tax payer money in fighting people. The township wants busineess to come in, instead they are chaising them out of here. Those guys with the property on pawlings Rd took an eyesore & made it the best looking house on the street.

Anonymous said...

I heard the neighbor that is against the property on Pawlings Rd. helped with Rick Browns campaign when he ran for office. Do you think that something to do with the Townships appeal. "one had washes the other" It comes down to dirty politics & someone needs to step in & stop Rick before he runs the Township broke!!!!