Galloway Township Appoints Records Manager to Supplement Clerk, Solicitor
Kim Procopio submitted the lowest bid, at $135 an hour. The township pays Solicitor Michael Fitzgerald $100 an hour.
Councilman Jim McElwee called it a luxury the township can’t afford, while Township Manager Arch Liston called it a luxury the township can’t afford not to do.
In the end, council voted 5-2 in favor of appointing special counsel to deal with records management at its meeting Tuesday night, Feb. 12, at the municipal complex.
The special counsel in this case would be Kimberly Procopio, an attorney with the firm of Nehmad, Perillo and Davis, out of Egg Harbor Township. The records management refers to Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests, which have been an issue with the township for the last couple of years.
Procopio was the lowest bidder out of four bidders, according to township representatives. Her rate is $135 an hour, but Mayor Don Purdy said that price is something Township Manager Arch Liston would have to negotiate. Township Solicitor Michael Fitzgerald’s rate is $100 an hour.
The township’s intent is to divide the work between the two, with Liston determining which attorney handles which matters. Fitzgerald and Procopio would be paid for each individual matter they handle. Ideally, the township would be splitting what it is paying Fitzgerald currently in half, to be divided between Fitzgerald and Procopio. The intent is for the township not to pay any extra money, prompting Purdy’s comment that Liston would have to negotiate the bid put forth by Procopio.
Councilmen McElwee and Jim Gorman were the two dissenting votes.
“We have a solicitor and we have a clerk,” Gorman said. “We’re going to have a situation where outside counsel is going to make a decision and inside will look at it too. It’s going to be redundant.”
Following the meeting, Purdy stated the township will make certain there is never a situation in which both solicitors will look at the same situation. Those in support of the measure emphasized that certain individuals have certain areas in which they specialize.
“If you need a brain surgeon, you’re not going to a foot doctor,” Liston said. “Kim Procpio has a lot of experience in this type of law. She was a city solicitor in Atlantic City, and she was exposed to these issues at various levels.”
Fitzgerald supported the proposal, stating it didn’t hurt to have that “potential resource.”
Fitzgerald was appointed solicitor last summer after former Solicitor Michael Blee was appointed to the New Jersey State Superior Court. He was reappointed during January’s reorganization meeting, by a 5-2 vote. McElwee and Gorman were the two dissenting votes that night, as well, as they voted in favor of Randy Lafferty.
Fulfilling OPRA requests has been a problematic task for almost two years in Galloway Township. McElwee campaigned for office each of the last two years on transparency, and he’s stated in the past the OPRA problem could be fixed by posting documents on the township’s website.
Council has discussed updating the website for a few years, and on Tuesday night, Liston stated the township’s minutes would be posted on the municipal website within 30-60 days, per the Governor’s Checklist for municipal websites.