Belknap County delegation makes adjustment on spending for legal feesUnion Leader Correspondent
July 11. 2017 11:42PM
LACONIA — The chairman of the Belknap County delegation was surprised to learn Monday that the legislative body had rung up a $19,000 legal tab.
Rep. Herb Vadney, R-Meredith, didn’t deny the need to retain an attorney to challenge lawsuits filed by former Mayor Tom Tardif, but said he couldn’t believe he was never notified about the high legal bill.
“When you see (an expenditure) of over $19,000 in an account that has $5,000 in it, isn’t it time for somebody to yell uncle,” he said during a morning meeting of the delegation’s executive committee.
The county, represented by former Laconia Mayor Paul Fitzgerald of Wescott Law PA, prevailed in Tardif’s latest suit heard in Carroll County Superior Court.
But County Administrator Debra Shackett said Tardif tried to appeal to the state Supreme Court, which declined to accept the case until the lower court decides whether to order him to pay the county’s legal fees.
The executive committee had earlier decided that Vadney would be the contact person for legal issues involving the Tardif suit.
Committee Chairman Michael Sylvia, R-Belmont, opened the meeting by saying he was not entirely sure the legal fees should be assessed to the delegation’s budget. He maintained the group had never selected an attorney or had any input on any legal actions taken. He further faulted the billing as being insufficient because it contained no breakdown of the hourly rate or costs.
County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy, R-Sanbornton, said he spoke to Vadney about the Tardif litigation and the message he got was that the county should take a firm stance and seek recovery of its costs and fees.
“The question is who is leading the charge. I don’t want to interfere with your relationship with your attorney,” he said.
Vadney questioned who knew the bill was getting so high and why nothing was said. DeVoy replied that he was unaware of the cost until he received the budget printout that all delegation members were given.
“I think you should be a little more active with your attorney,” DeVoy advised.
Vadney said when an account is 400 percent over budget halfway through the year, that should be a red flag.
Rep. Marc Abear, R-Meredith, asked why the bill was paid since it was not an acceptable invoice because it didn’t include an hourly rate or breakdown of time worked.
Executive committee members said they were concerned that legal communications had gone through the county’s administration.
Shackett said she had emailed them copies of every motion or action Fitzgerald had filed on behalf of the delegation, but conceded she had not included copies of the billings.
After discussing the issue for nearly an hour, the executive committee voted to transfer $19,000 from the contingency fund to bring the legal account back into the black.