This summer, State Comptroller Matt Boxer released a scathing audit that revealed a repeated waste of taxpayer dollars by government entities on excessive or improper payments for legal services, including one town that paid a salary for an attorney with no job duties at all.

NJ State Comptroller Matt Boxer (Photo by David Matthau, Townsquare Media)

Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce has introduced a bill she hopes will be a quick fix to the problem.

The bill, called the 'Transparency in Government Legal Bill Act,' requires a detailed invoice describing each legal service performed, an itemized list of the expenses involved for each service and how the amount of the charge was determined.

"When someone receives a bill, they have a right to see a breakdown of the charges before making payment," says DeCroce. "Taxpayers are footing the bill for contracted legal services provided to agencies and departments and each bill should be scrutinized to make sure the charges are fair, accurate and can be substantiated."

Under DeCroce's bill, before any town pays any legal fee, an invoice must include the following information:

  1. The date(s) and description of issue for which service was provided.
  2. The name of the attorney and the method used to calculate the bill.
  3. The total charge for the service(s) provided.
  4. The invoice must include a description of each service rendered and the name(s) of the individuals involved in providing that service.
  5. The amount of time spent on each particular service.
  6. A list of expenses and disbursements made for each service rendered, with specific notes on which services are reimbursable.
  7. A notation on the limit of charges for services that may be billed as provided in the contract and whether payment of the invoice will exceed the limit stipulated in the agreement.

"This legislation spells out the elements that must be included in an invoice and ensures taxpayers are only paying for services that can be documented just as any client is entitled to before remitting payment," says DeCroce.