WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- A Pittsburgh law firm will represent Luzerne County in the lawsuit against Lackawanna County over the sale of the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees, Luzerne County officials said.
Luzerne County manager Robert Lawton announced at a county council meeting last week that he had selected Grant Street's Murray, Hogue and Lannis as outside legal counsel. John E. Murray Jr., a nationally known expert in contract law, will charge $350 per hour, while work from other attorneys at the firm will cost $175 an hour, solicitor Vito DeLuca said Wednesday.
The Triple-A minor league baseball team has been sold to an ownership group called SWB Yankees LLC for $14.6 million, ending 26 years of public ownership of the team.
SWB Yankees is a joint venture of Mandalay Baseball Properties and the New York Yankees.
Luzerne County hired Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC last year to provide legal services for the suit, but a judge in July disqualified the firm from the litigation because it represented Lackawanna County as bond counsel in 2010.
The sale of the baseball team has been in the works for five years, and in 2010, Luzerne County sued Lackawanna County, arguing the counties should equally split franchise sale proceeds after the Lackawanna County Multi-Purpose Stadium Authority receives a $345,000 reimbursement.
That's because each county chipped in $1 million to purchase the minor league franchise in 1986. Prior to 2007, the franchise was a Phillies Triple-A team named the Red Barons.
The stadium authority -- which owns PNC Field in Moosic, where the baseball team plays -- completed the sale of the franchise to SWB Yankees LLC in April.
Lackawanna has filed a countersuit against Luzerne, alleging Luzerne is responsible for half of more than $20 million that Lackawanna spent maintaining the Moosic stadium. The sale resulted in state funding to rebuild PNC Field.
At least one member of the stadium authority board says the operation of the franchise has been "very disappointing," citing the worst attendance in franchise history in 2011 and hoping the New York Yankees now will take a more active role in running the local operation.