Legal cost issue should be about capping or in-house counsel

The following press release from the Middletown Democrats for Twsp. Committee, Patricia Walsh and Jim Grenafege, is in response to the recent articles that appeared in The Courier newpaper last week about the billing practice of Township Attorney Bernard Reilly.

Press Release

Aug. 18, 2008

POC: Democrats for Twsp. Committee
Patricia A. Walsh
Tel: (908) 601-1252/Email: awalsh386@aol.com
Or Jim Grenafege
Tel: (732) 872-0890/Email: j.grenafege@att.net

Legal cost issue should be about capping or in-house counsel

MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP (MONMOUTH COUNTY, NJ):I have always been an advocate of in-house counsel at the county level, said Middletown Democrat for Township Committee Jim Grenafege. So it makes sense that I am all for it here in Middletown.

Grenafege’s running mate is Patricia A. Walsh. She said,”The school district caps legal expenses in the context of its annual budget. There is no reason to tolerate excessive legal spending on the municipal level from the numerous attorneys the township now employs.

Walsh said she recently saw a published report where Township Attorney Bernard Reilly is paid for 200-hour months and
15-18 hour days. More scrutiny must be given to each of these individual legal bills”, she said.

However, Walsh said she believes a cap may work out better for the township than an in-house counsel, though she is convinced both hers and Mr. Grenafege’s ideas should be discussed publicly once they are elected to the Township Committee and action taken.

Grenafege said a task force should be immediately formed, in January, with the mission of studying all aspects of legal staffing and activity within the township. “Are there any “best practices” that are utilized by other towns that Middletown can learn from?” Grenafege said. “It’s worth a good look”.

Grenafege said he read the county’s study about this, though he characterized that study as “flawed” because it was prepared by one of the county’s attorneys, who was an outside counsel on the county payroll.

“The days of letting attorneys run the show must come to an end. Our taxpayers are facing tough economic times and their tax money should not be wasted in any way,” Walsh said.”It is fiscally responsible for the committee to completely review what has taken place over the last 20 years, following the excesses of previous administrations.”

Walsh said that previous administrations had closed their eyes to legal bill overruns, but it is not a way the township can do business in this century.

Grenafege said he supports an initiative favored by Middletown Committeeman Sean Byrnes whereby a financial professional would be brought in to examine the possibility of saving dollars and find new, constructive ways to save tax money.

Walsh said this measure is one that should be voted on by the committee. But, she said such an initiative would have to be examined closely before that vote, following recommendations by the task force formed for this purpose.

“There should be different ideas that come together with the underlying purpose of cutting spending and putting permanent fiscal controls in place in Middletown,” Walsh concluded.

You can also read all about the billing practices of Mr. Reilly by reading Melissa Gaffney’s blog SableMinded

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Filed under Bernard Reilly, Jim Grenafege, Legal bills, Melissa Gaffney, Middletown, Middletown Democrats, Patricia Walsh, The Courier

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