When Galloway Township Council convenes for its special meeting Thursday night, July 12, the possibility exists that it may decide to start using an “in-house” solicitor as it seeks to replace Michael Blee, who was nominated to the State Superior Court by Gov. Chris Christie last month.
Galloway Republican League Municipal Chair Terry Luccarelli also promises council will have three names to choose from to serve as a replacement for Dennis Kleiner, who resigned from council on June 25.
Members of council agree that to use an in-house solicitor, “the numbers would have to make sense.” Use of an in-house solicitor means this person would work for, and be paid by, the township exclusively. To this point, Galloway’s solicitors have been attorneys who run their own practices and charge the township a fee to serve as solicitor.
Over the last year, Blee was called upon repeatedly to examine a large number of Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests. The general feeling is that use of a solicitor who is a township employee could potentially save the township a lot of money.
“If the numbers I’ve looked at are right, we could save $40-50,000,” said Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola, who first told Galloway Patch of the possibility on Monday, July 9. “It might tip the scales so that we’re not laying someone off. We need to think outside the box and be more efficient.”
“We’ve been weighing it,” said Mayor Don Purdy, who said the numbers were all based on a five-year average. “We have to weigh all our options.”
“We could save a lot of money on OPRA requests,” said Councilman Brian Tyrrell, who added the drawback would be that it would “grow government. None of us want to grow government. We have to look at the potential savings.”
Councilman Jim Gorman was undecided about the proposal.
“I have not been in a lot of the discussion,” Gorman said. “I don’t have a lot of information. It depends on the number and it depends on the person. It’s a tough call. … If you can save money, it’s a good thing because right now whenever you pick up the phone to call an outside attorney, it’s costing us money.”
The Township issued Requests for Proposal (RFPs) for the position on June 28. According to Coppola, the township has received “very few” responses.
At the last council meeting, a committee made up of Purdy, Coppola and Tyrrell was formed to hire a new solicitor.
That discussion and interview process takes place the same night council will discuss selections for a new councilperson. The Republican Committee had 15 days from the date of Kleiner’s resignation to submit three names to council.
The deadline is Wednesday, and the committee will meet Tuesday night, at the same time Galloway Council will hold its regular meeting. This prompted council members to request a special meeting from Township Manager Arch Liston for Thursday, even though council has an additional 15 days after the committee names the candidates to name a successor, who would be sworn in immediately.
Luccarelli said she will contact Liston and Township Clerk Thalia C. Kay “as soon as the three names are selected Tuesday night.”
If for some reason the committee failed to submit three names by Wednesday, council then appoints the successor, who would have to be a Republican as Kleiner was, within the next 15 days, according to statute.
The successor will then run for the seat in a special election in November. The winner of that election will fill out the rest of Kleiner's term, which expires in 2013.