Council To Vote On Increases For Labor Attorney & Tax Appeal Attorney

Thursday night’s council meeting will have two resolutions up for a vote, both which will increase the maximum dollar amounts payable to two separate attorney firms for professional services this year.

Resolution 282-16 will increase the maximum amount budgeted for the borough’s tax appeal attorney by 66% for the remainder of the year. The original amount approved by council in January of this year in Resolution 5-16 was $15,000. The $10,000 is to handle tax appeals that end up in state court and those appeals that were filed before Realty Appraisal Company conducted their townwide revaluation last year. That firm, as part of their contract, will handle those appeals resulting from their assessments at no cost. Any appeals of Realty Appraisal’s assessments that reach state court will be charged $90/hour. It is not known if the municipality will employ Realty Appraisal for those state court appeals or utilize the services of Palumbo & Renaud at $60/hour. Even though lower, the time spent on research by Palumbo & Renaud might increase the hours charged.

The second resolution, #283-16, increases the maximum amount approved at the beginning of this year by 225%. This is the second time that Garrubbo & Capece has requested a change order in their contract. The first time was in June with Resolution 142-16 when the firm was awarded an additional $10,000 for their professional services. Now, as the year draws to a close, the governing body will vote on whether to award an increase more than double the amount from June for a total of $65,000. The hourly rate for Garrubbo & Capece is $135/hour. Based on that rate, it is calculated that the firm expects to do about 480 hours of billing for professional services related to personnel issues before the end of 2016.

Most notably, Frank Capece was the labor attorney involved with a rare public hearing on a complaint filed by First Ward Councilman Eugene Meola against Department of Public Works (DPW) Superintendent Mark Pasquali in June of this year (link). Mr. Capece was also involved in the controversy regarding the placement of the Kneeling Soldier At Cross memorial in front of the Roselle Park Veterans Memorial Library when he provided Mayor Carl Hokanson with talking points on possibly removing Council-At-Large Charlene Storey as the liaison to the library board (link).

As stated, both these resolutions are payment for work conducted this year. Currently, bids are out for both professional service for the year 2017. A source familiar with the situation stated that the municipality had a lot of personnel issues and tax appeals to handle and that bids/proposals for such professional services are accepted for those who charge the lowest hourly rate.

The next Mayor & Council meeting when these resolutions are expected to be voted on is Thursday, December 1, 2016, at Borough Hall. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Borough Hall is located at 110 East Westfield Avenue.