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Some Towns Improperly Paying Lawyers, NJ Comptroller Reports

Released this morning, an Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) review of five local governments has found repeated waste of taxpayer dollars on excessive or improper payments for legal services, including one town that paid a salary for an attorney with no job duties at all.

(Flickr User: kriskaer)
(Flickr User: kriskaer)

Two of the local governments paid their legal counsel at hourly attorney rates for routine clerical and administrative work that should have been free of charge under the attorney’s contract.

Another local government paid 30 different attorneys from the same law firm to provide legal services in a single year.

“We took on this project to develop guidance that local governments could consult when contracting with outside counsel and managing their legal departments,” State Comptroller Matt Boxer. “What we found were repeated failures to review legal bills and manage legal contracts in a way that looks out for taxpayers.”

The review reveals that North Bergen had a salaried attorney with a no-work job. Township officials were unable to provide any information on the job responsibilities of the attorney who was receiving from the township an $18,800 salary, health benefits and participation in the state pension system.

When first questioned by OSC, township officials said they were unsure if the attorney in question served as the town’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board attorney or as its Tenant Advocate. After requests for additional information, the attorney in question, who had been employed by the township for years, resigned from his position.

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