Brooking also spoke to the assembly during the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting.
It was two times a charm for a legal services contract up for approval during last week’s borough assembly meeting. After failing to get assembly approval two weeks ago, the contract with Wholforth Brecht Cartledge and Brooking passed 4-2 Thursday night.
The firm bid for the contract, which includes legal services associated with the sale of revenue bonds for the new long term care facility, in July 2012. The fee amount at that time was for $17,500, but during the May 2 assembly meeting the assembly faced a contract for $25,000, with little to no explanation of the increase. Following that meeting, assembly members were sent a memo from borough’s attorney, Cheryl Brooking, who explained why the firm was asking for more money.
(LTC Contract 1 :35 “When we started out in July, just
to kind of summarize what you already know at this point. We had a time
frame that was going to take a few months, we had a fixed bond amount
and we had a project that was ready to go. The certificate of need
application was going to be submitted to the state within a week or two,
very short time frame. Everything was moving along. And basically
nothing happened as anticipated. And the project continued to change,
continued to grow. The documents had to be continued to be revised. The
deadline continued to be extended. The bonds were not issued last
September; they are going to be issued in June. The closing date is
scheduled now for June 19.”)
Brooking said if she knew what she
knows now, the original agreement from last summer would have looked
quite a bit different.
Nothing in borough code says an item
can’t reappear on an agenda, and Borough Manager Bud Cassidy said he and
staff felt the contract needed to be revisited once the fee changes
-- (LTC Contract 2 :12 “I am
comfortable recommending this increase knowing of the time and effort
that has gone into getting us to where we are at, and that is to sell
the bonds here next month for the long term care facility.”)
Assemblywoman Louise Stutes wasn’t at the May 2 meeting, but said she was shocked to see the item reappear on the agenda.
(LTC Contract 3 :19 “And to have staff go to bat for a
vendor to increase the fees that this borough pays when we have a
contract, as opposed to saying, ‘look, we have a contract. You agreed to
provide these services to this community for these dollars, we expect
you to fulfill your contract.’ I really have a problem with that.”)
In an effort to clear up whether the firm had the right to up its
fees, Assemblyman Aaron Griffin went right to the source – the contract
that was approved in July.
-- (LTC Contract 4 :39
“If I could bring your attention to page 21 of the packet, under the
fee section, sub section five. It specifically says that our fee may
vary if material changes in the structure or schedule of the financing
occur, or if other unusual or unforeseen circumstances arise which
require significant change in our time or responsibility. Going back,
our fee may vary if material changes in the structure or schedule of the
financing occur. So we’ve had a material change in the schedule of this
contract, a contract that was signed by our borough manager. Which
means that the borough, likewise that we think our attorney has
responsibilities under this contract, we have responsibilities under
this contract. And there have been changes from the original drafting.”)
Assemblywoman Carol Austerman said she supports the fee increase, and
the fact that it was before the assembly a second time.
Contract 4 :20 “We were not provided good information the
last time it was on our agenda and that is why I do feel that it was
very valid to put it up in front of us again because now we actually
have a complete information packet where it really wasn’t possible I
think to make a valid decision before lacking that back up
The contract received a majority vote the second
time around, with Stutes and Assemblyman Mel Stephens voting against