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NJ Open Government Notes

Comparing municipal attorneys’ billings in multiple towns

Many attorneys represent more than one government agency. As an experiment, I selected two townships in Cumberland County that are represented by the same lawyer and OPRAed the legal invoices from both. I then compared them side by side and looked for instances in which attorney billed both townships for more hours than seemed reasonable for a single day.

What I found was that the law firm, which I believe employs one attorney, charged the townships a total of $2,175 for 14.5 hours spent attending two court hearings on March 30, 2011. The details are in my letter to both Mayors, which is on-line here.

Clearly, there may be, and probably is, a logical explanation for these billings, but I believe that questioning them is reasonable. If your local agency’s attorney works for multiple towns, you may wish to try an experiment similar to mine. I believe that citizens questioning attorney bills will cause government attorneys to be very careful in their billing practices.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project