Orange Township trustees decided Monday, May 21, to hire an attorney to scrutinize public document requests at a rate of $210 per hour instead of using the free services provided by the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office.
“My only concern is how costly he is at $210 an hour when we have access to the prosecutor’s office,” said Trustee Debbie Taranto before the vote was taken on a resolution to hire attorney Brian Zets to inspect the township’s public document requests. “Our legal fees are already extremely high. We’ve created a lot of additional costs it seems this year, and I hate to see us add to that.”
According to the resolution approved by trustees, Zets and his firm will receive $210 per hour for partners’ services, $150 per hour for services performed by an associate, and $85 per hour for paralegal services.
Taranto voted against the measure that was added to the trustees’ May 21 agenda by Trustee Lisa Knapp.
Both Knapp and Trustee Ryan Rivers approved the resolution to hire Zets to deal with the public document requests.
“We’ve been inundated with public records requests and also numerous issues,” Knapp said. She added that Zets is the public records person for Washington Township and a few other places.
Fiscal Officer Joel Spitzer suggested the use of the prosecutor’s office for the document request.
“The prosecutors are experts as well,” he said.
Knapp said she didn’t think the prosecutor’s office had the time to do the work.
“We have over 50 public records requests, and we need to respond to those in a timely manner. I doubt the prosecutor’s office is going to have time to do that,” she said.
According to Twp. Administrator Lee Bodnar, the township has received over 50 public document requests in the last week.
“In the past, I’ve handled public records request myself unless they are highly sensitive for which I would classify these,” he said. “I would prefer legal counsel, guidance and direction.”
The Gazette was the first to make a document request two weeks ago for emails between trustees and the former assistant fiscal officer. As of Tuesday afternoon, the request still goes unfulfilled.
Knapp said she proposed hiring Zets based on the prior work he has done with the township.
Trustees approved a resolution to hire Zets in March to represent the township in a Court of Claims case brought against the township by resident Stacey Neff.
Neff filed the complaint Oct. 10, 2017, when she was denied public records she requested.
Bodnar said he has found Zets cooperative and easy to work with on the matter of the Court of Claims case.
Rivers said he would like to see the public records policy for the township updated.
“I think he’s a great resource and can take a specialistic look to see where we are and in that, he provides a strong value,” Rivers said.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.