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How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Run Schuylkill County Government?

Seriously, stop us if you heard this one …

How many lawyers does it take to run Schuylkill County government?

The answer: Well, that seems to update weekly.

Schuylkill County Contracts with 2 Outside Law Firms – For Bonds, For “Employment Issues”

Last week, Schuylkill County Commissioners approved a pair of contracts with outside law firms to help manage some function or entanglement of county government.

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First, they hired the firm of Seamons, Cherin Mellott LLC to help “in connection with” the 2 bond issues they agreed to enter into to pay for the so-called “broadband project” that’s really just an upgrade for the 9-1-1 system.

According to the motion they passed at Wednesday’s meeting, this law firm will act as “note counsel” because apparently the bonds need their own lawyers. Typical loans … always lawyering up the first chance they get.

The contract agreed to has a cap of $13,500 but it’s unclear if that’s a yearly rate or carries us through the entire cycle with these bond issues.

But that’s not all. The best thing about lawyer jokes is there’s always another.

Schuylkill County Commissioners also approved a contract with Flamm, Walton, Heimbach, of Allentown for consulting services with the county Solicitor’s office.

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That contract runs retroactively from Nov. 18, 2020 through May 17, 2021. And it’ll cost Schuylkill County taxpayers $200 an hour. There’s no cap on that contract.

What exactly those attorney will do was a source of some bickering on Wednesday.

Clerk of Courts Maria Casey questioned the Schuylkill Commissioners on why the county needed to hire more lawyers. We already have 3 solicitors in-house, she said.

“Why are you entering into a $200 an hour contract with a law firm from Allentown,” Casey asked. “We’re entitled to know that.”

She wondered if this firm would be dealing with any potential litigation involving Commissioner George Halcovage and the sexual harassment allegations hanging over him much of this year.

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Casey, at first, did not get an answer. However, later when the issue came up for a vote, she got somewhat of an answer. Commissioner Gary Hess asked County Administrator Gary Bender what this contract entailed.

“Special Employment Issues”

Bender did acknowledge that the County does have 3 solicitors working in-house: Alvin Marshal, Glenn Roth, and Chris Hobbs. But sometimes, they need to reach out for more help or expertise.

Bender said it was for dealing with “special employment issues” that were imminent within the County government.

“We felt that was above what we could handle,” Bender told Hess, adding that this firm would be brought in “just to help on special projects like that.”

“There are projects coming up that we all talked about,” he said, “that we think this expertise is needed. If we do something, we want to make sure we’re on solid ground.”

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Bender added that the County “is just getting advice right now” as it pertains to this contract and the firm hired.

“We have issues right now that we’re seeking advice on,” Bender said, but didn’t divulge what those issues or special projects were.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. coalregion12

    December 6, 2020 at 8:42 am

    at the next meeting, someone should ask for the contracts that were signed for both law firms. Also, an FOIA should be requested each time the county uses the law firm services and for what.

    • Geralynn matta

      December 6, 2020 at 10:30 pm

      In Lehigh County Schuylkill County has the reputation of being able to make up their own rules without ever being held accountable for their actions. Many Bethlehem and Allentown lawyers have stated this fact. I worked in the Allentown courthouse for years and also acquired a lawyer from Bethlehem that gave up due to this fact.

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