Legal bills piling up, causing concern in Robinson

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Robinson officials on Monday discussed concerns about high spending on legal fees.

Commissioner Ronald Shiwarski said the township has spent more than $122,000 on legal services this year through April, compared with $36,861 during the same four-month period in 2012.

"We're blowing the budget on those fees," he said.

The fees have gone hand-in-hand with changes related to the township's legal advisers.

In January, commissioners terminated its longtime relationship with law firm Goldberg, Kamin & Garvin of Pittsburgh and appointed John Butya of Robinson as interim solicitor.

In February, board members hired attorney Anthony Giglio, a partner with Andrews & Price in Forest Hills, as special counsel to resolve ongoing legal cases. In March, the board appointed Bruce E. Dice & Associates of Plum as the replacement solicitor.

Commissioners chairman Samuel Abatta said legal fees this year include $34,968 to Mr. Dice's firm; $34,885 to Mr. Giglio's firm; $24,999 to Mr. Butya; $15,694 to Goldberg, Kamin & Garvin for work previously done; $5,444 to the zoning hearing board attorney; $4,352 to special labor counsel; and $1,752 to civil service counsel.

Mr. Giglio has settled two court cases that involved a tax-increment financing, or TIF, deal with The Mall at Robinson and a dispute over plans for the Stafford Park (formerly Coventry Park) residential development.

Vice chairman Jesse Forquer said closing those cases benefits the township in the long run.

"If you want to hire people that are going to win for you, maybe they cost you a little more, but when you get something done that's not dragging out for 10 years, that's a much better deal," Mr. Forquer said.

Mr. Abatta argued that hiring the special counsel had been unnecessary.

Mr. Shiwarski said $100,000 was budgeted this year for solicitor fees, and about $70,000 already has been spent. The township is more than $30,000 over budget for other legal services, he said.

"We are dangerously close to our budget limit -- or over already -- and it's only through April," he said.

Robinson remains in court over several issues.

Commissioners this week affirmed they will appeal a land use variance that the zoning hearing board has granted for a proposed hockey training rink on Parkway View Drive. Taxpayers will fund the legal fees of both parties.


Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:


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