Point Boro GOP Votes for Boro Attorney Without Knowing Rate
Republicans say that now they will renegotiate with Jerry Dasti to determine rate
However, Republican council members who voted for Dasti to return to the borough in his former role say they do not know exactly how much he will charge, but they will renegotiate with him and let the public know the rate later.
The council voted along party lines on Dasti's appointment and the appointments of municipal auditor, conflict attorney, conflict municipal engineer and municipal auditor, with Council President Antoinette DePaola and Councilmen Mitch Remig, Robert Sabosik and John Wisniewski voting in favor and Councilmen Christopher Leitner and Christopher Goss voting against.
During his report on the finance committee, Leitner took the opportunity to register his objections to the Republicans' move to appoint their own choices to fill the borough's professional appointments.
"When I was first on the council, I asked Mayor (Marty) Konkus if there was some room to get some professional appointments," Leitner said. But Konkus politely told him no, Leitner said, saying it was the only thing that was within his ability to choose, as the mayor in Point Pleasant does not have the power to vote except in the case of a tie.
Leitner went on to quote South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, as saying advice and consent should mean just that, that the council should have accepted the appointments made by Mayor William Schroeder at the council's reorganization meeting, because the professionals he chose were well-suited for the roles they've been serving.
"Fallon has been elbow deep, and is probably now shoulder deep, in our budget," Leitner said, referring to the former borough auditor, Fallon and Larsen, indicating that the experience of helping the borough through a financial crisis was important to consider.
"Please don't replace your judgment for the judgment of the mayor," Leitner said.
DePaola responded during her committee report, saying the council was making the appointments because they wanted people in place who they felt comfortable working with going forward.
"For people who think this is about political patronage, it is not," she said. "We need professionals who can do the jobs. Our former borough attorney was a tax attorney; he didn't have a municipal background, and there were times when there were deficiencies in knowledge.
"The role of the council is to have professionals they can work with," she said.
The biggest point of contention was the appointment of Dasti, and the cost of his services during his previous tenure as borough attorney was criticized on Tuesday night.
"I want your word that we won't have $200,000 in borough attorney's fees for 2012 or 2013," said Laura Beeden of Spruce Street, who raised concerns about Dasti's past fees.
Both DePaola and Leitner told Beeden her request for a promise was unrealistic, because part of the fees paid to Dasti in the past dealt with litigation.
"The council does need to be diligent in reviewing bills," Leitner said, "but it's impossible to predict the litigation costs from year to year."
Beeden said her concern was the amount paid to Dasti had been rising each year.
Wisniewski, who had requested from borough Administrator David Maffei information on the capped payment amounts for the borough's various professionals, told Beeden, "That's why I asked David if there's a list of caps."
The biggest question, however, of how much Dasti will be paid for this year remained unanswered.
He submitted a request for proposal (or RFP) of a maximum of $93,500 for 2012 "or about $7,500 per month," according to copies of documents submitted by his firm in early December to Borough Hall. That figure has been negotiated down, DePaola confirmed, but refused to reveal the negotiated amount.
"Now that we've gone forward with the appointment, we have to figure out exactly what his contract will be," DePaola said after the meeting.
All of the professionals the Republicans appointed agreed to lower fees than their submitted bids, she said, but she and Sabosik would not reveal the negotiated amounts on Tuesday night. "We'll be glad to send it to you," Sabosik said.
DePaola insisted the fee reductions that were negotiated are measurable.
"It's a win-win for the taxpayers," she said.
Tom Szymanski Jr. of Joseph Street, president of the borough's Republican Club, criticized Leitner for voicing his complaints about the appointments during his committee reports.
"That should be a time for nonpartisan government business," Szymanski said, to which Schroeder replied that council members don't forfeit the right to voice their opinions just because they're seated on the dais. "It doesn't diminish our voice."
"There's a time and a place, and that's not it," Szymanski retorted, reiterating that he felt Leitner's comments were inappropriate for that time of the meeting.
Leitner pointed out Szymanski's GOP ties and said the council meeting is the only place for him to voice those concerns.
"We have to be talking to each other up here," Leitner said, noting that a discussion of three or more council members outside the public forum is a violation of the state's Sunshine Law.
The following appointments were approved Tuesday night:
- Joseph D. Coronato as municipal prosecutor;
- Hutchins, Farrell, Meyer & Allison as municipal auditor;
- Bathgate, Wegener & Wolf, P.C. as conflict attorney;
- Remington & Vernick Engineers as conflict municipal engineer;
- Steven Zabarsky, Esq., of Citta, Holzapfel & Zabarsky as conflict municipal prosecutor
- Sean Gertner, Esq., of Gertner, Mandel & Peslak as conflict municipal defender
Zabarsky and Gertner were appointed unanimously.