Lewisburg and East Buffalo Township each exceeded five figures in legal expenses so far as the Union County municipalities engage in a lawsuit over financial contributions to their shared police department.
The Daily Item reviewed invoices received from both municipalities under a Right to Know Law request.
Lewisburg, which initiated the lawsuit in February, paid $19,629 total on the case through Sept. 13. The borough’s outside counsel, the Pittsburgh-based Campbell Durrant Beatty Palumbo & Miller, received $17,301 for 91 hours of work between January and August. An additional $2,328 was paid to borough solicitor Andrew Lyons for 28.9 hours through Sept. 13.
East Buffalo Township, one of two defendants, paid $10,446.10 to Mette, Evans & Woodside of Harrisburg for 50.1 hours of service between June 19 and Aug. 8. Additional funds were paid to township solicitor Pete Matson, however, the attorney’s invoices don’t include the cost or hours charged for work specific to the litigation.
Invoices weren’t requested from the second defendant in the case, the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Commission, but will be sought when The Daily Item updates these figures in a later report.
Open records requests were sent to both municipalities on Sept. 12 for all legal invoices received, not just invoices specific to the lawsuit.
East Buffalo Township supplied 53 unredacted records in two business days.
Lewisburg Borough invoked a 30-day extension at the expiration of the initial five-day response period. However, the borough supplied 139 records in 10 business days.
Some of Lewisburg’s records are heavily redacted. William Lowthert, borough manager and open records officer, cites attorney-client privilege and the protection of private citizens’ names involved in ongoing investigations as allowed redactions under the state’s Right to Know Law.
The exclusions include names of people on telephone conference calls, recipients of emails prepared by borough attorneys, names of letter-writers to the borough, drafting or review of unidentified documents and in some instances concerning the ongoing litigation with East Buffalo Township and Buffalo Valley Regional Police Commission, wholesale redaction of actions taken by the borough’s solicitor.
Such information wasn’t redacted in records supplied by East Buffalo Township.
Hourly wages for attorneys and paralegals working for Lewisburg’s outside counsel range between $210 and $140; for the township, $265 to $140. Lewisburg’s solicitor earns a $90 hourly wage while Matson, the township’s solicitor, earns $200 hourly.
Lewisburg filed suit against the township and police commission concerning East Buffalo’s change in its municipal contribution to the regional police department.
The township maintains it acted within the terms of the existing contract between the municipalities when it requested half of the available police coverage rather than the 52-48 split the borough says is mandated by a mutually agreed-upon formula dating to 2011.
Lewisburg’s continued position is that East Buffalo Township’s decision that took effect in 2017 constituted a unilateral reduction of municipal contributions, the result of a misinterpretation of contract language and a violation of its terms.
Union County President Judge Michael Hudock ordered the case be moved to the second quarter trial term in 2020, sometime between April 20 and July 19. An actual date would be set at a pretrial conference in March next year.