Sunday, February 24, 2013

Legal Bills for November and December 2012 Spike; Over $6,000 in OPRA Expenses has obtained through an Open Public Records Request the November and December 2012 Legal invoices for Township Solicitor Michael Fitzgerald. Legal expenses for November were $5,720.95, of that $2,451.20 was the expense for OPRA reviews. Legal expenses for December were $7,632.70, of that $3,760.00 was the expense for OPRA reviews. offers a suggestion to Council that will save at least $12,000 a year on Legal cost as it pertains to OPRA. 

The detail listed in the OPRA invoices consist of the Township Solicitor reviewing multiple emails pertaining to documents being released by Township Clerk Thalia "TC" Kay. Most of the entries on the Legal invoices state "receipt and review of emails" from various requestors. According to the invoices, Fitzgerald charges at least $10.00 per email he opens just to review. has verified through our own emails we have received from the Township that Township Clerk Kay copies the Solicitor on each email she sends pertaining to OPRA Requests. That practice as seen in the invoices below has cost the Township thousands of dollars in just two months. This practice has been going on for sometime according to other legal invoices we posted previously.

The Township has proclaimed over the past month that they intend to reduce the expense of OPRA after appointing Kim Procopio, Esq., to handle Records Management. An appointment that occurred at the February 12, 2013 Council Meeting. We notified and requested comment from Mayor Don Purdy, Councilman Jim Gorman, Councilman Jim McElwee and Township Manager Arch Liston as it pertained to the ongoing practice of emails being sent by the Clerk to the Township Solicitor on OPRA Requests. 

McElwee stated, "In my opinion the Custodian of Records should have an understanding of OPRA law and if in doubt should go to the Township Solicitor for advice on gray areas. I see no need to copy the Solicitor on each request, especially if we are being billed for his time to study those e-mails. If this current policy becomes a burden on the Budget, I would expect the Township Manager and Council to re-examine it as soon as possible. " 

The Township has undoubtedly expended money on OPRA Requests. With the new attorney being appointed, both Gorman and McElwee stated it was a Luxury the Township could not afford.  "I still am not convinced that we need four people involved in OPRA requests. I have confidence in the Township Manager to set budget limits on OPRA processing costs and will examine the bills at the end of the next cycle to determine the added expense" McElwee stated. 

With January 2012 Legal bills yet to be submitted for payment, the Township and the public will have to wait a couple more weeks to see how the billing of OPRA will either increase or decrease. Based on emails between and Township Clerk Kay, we anticipate the expense to remain in the thousands.

We urge Mayor and Council to reduce the budgetary expense on at least the emails Kay continues to send with the Township Solicitor copied when responding to OPRA Requests. By doing so, the Township will save at least $10.00 on every email which could result in a $12,000 savings for the year.

In our opinion, why does the Township need to wait and see how much money its going to cost them in order to cut. They already see the expense, just cut it now. 


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