Orange Township trustees examined where cuts could be made to the township’s 2018 budget during a special meeting this week.
The line item for $180,000 worth of legal fees was a point of contention between trustees Rob Quigley and Lisa Knapp.
According to Township Administrator Lee Bodnar the township retains attorney Michael McCarthy’s legal services mostly for advice. However, in the past, he said McCarthy had conducted some litigation for the township.
Quigley said he has kept track of the budget over the years.
“We’re averaging just about $3 million in revenue,” he said. “(Looking at the general fund) if we take away the $2.2 million that we’re using for capital funds, we’re still at $2.6 million, which means we’re still exceeding what we’re bringing in.
“What I would say is that you really need to go back and sharpen your pencil,” Quigley added. “We should start taking a closer look at the salary of the legal counsel and take more advantage of the prosecutor’s office.”
Quigley said the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office will provide legal counsel to the township at no cost.
Bodnar said McCarthy’s fees are paid from the township’s general fund budget, but if he is used by individual departments, his fees are paid from their budgets. The township does utilize services of other attorneys when the need arises.
“Granted, it’s been good,” Quigley said. “Why don’t we use the prosecutor’s office a little bit more?”
Knapp said in her “opinion” the prosecutor’s office is an “inadequate resource.”
“The services of the county prosecutor are nothing compared to actually someone working for us,” she said. “I cannot get answers from them. I’ve repeatedly left messages for them, they don’t call me back. It takes 10 phone calls because they are so busy and the answers they give are not always reliable.”
Knapp said she thought McCarthy’s service was well worth the $180,000.
“I think $180,000 out of $14 or$15 million budget, that’s not very much,” Knapp said. “He’s actually prevented many, many problems that other townships have encountered because he is proactive.”
Knapp said she wasn’t in favor of using the prosecutor’s office because as a large township there was a need for an expert familiar with the township.
“He brings a lot of value into Orange Township,” she said.
Quigley disagreed with Knapp’s statement regarding the reliability of prosecutor’s office and that he had not seen any problems. He said he recalled that at one time Knapp was “highly opposed to the amount of money being spent on legal services.”
Knapp disagreed and said it was never about McCarthy, “that was for frivolous expenses by employees here.”
“It’s cut down quite a bit since I took office,” she said. “We’ve stopped using external attorneys. We’ve quit pursuing things that were ridiculous.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.