Delaware County’s spending on outside attorneys has doubled since 2019, according to data obtained and analyzed by Broad + Liberty.
In 2019, the county spent $402,113 on legal costs from outside attorneys or law firms. Legal fees then exploded in 2020 to $1.14 million, an increase of about 180 percent.
While this increase in legal expenditures coincides with Democrats taking control of the council starting in January of 2020, county officials point to one-time expenses related to the pandemic and the election.
“Several significant litigation matters, along with unusual costs associated with the county-wide reassessment, the 2020 election and the organization of the new County Health Department contributed to the increase in legal costs,” county spokesperson Adrienne Marofsky told Broad + Liberty.
Yet, despite one-time expenses growing last year, the 2021 pace of spending on legal help is still on pace to grow. Through the first five months of the year, the county has already spent $521,675 on legal services — a pace that if continued, would put the county close to $1.2 million by the end of the year.
Despite one-time expenses growing last year, the 2021 pace of spending on legal help is still on pace to grow.
The increase in spending has resulted in a decent payday for some firms.
McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, a Harrisburg firm, billed the county nearly $300,000 in 2020. Anderson Kill, a firm with seven offices nationwide, billed just over $250,000 the same year.
In 2021, Eastburn and Gray, PC, based in Doylestown, has billed the county the most, at about $128,000.
The county did not respond to questions about what general category of legal service each of these firms provided.
In April, Broad + Liberty reported on growing pushback related to other expenditures by Delaware County. County Controller Joanne Davidson voiced particular concern over a slew of recent pay raises and bonuses.
“Tomorrow, you will be considering an increase in the Public Relations Director’s salary by almost 18 percent,” from about $80,000 to $95,000, Phillips told the board in a memo last September. “I continue to be concerned that the salary increases being approved by Council will further exacerbate pay disparity among people working for the County, lead to issues of fairness in compensation, and possibly lead to difficulty in meeting the County’s overall budget goals.”
In March, Republicans expressed their frustrations over the $145,000 salary for a new elections director.
In April, Broad + Liberty further reported that the county had overpaid for a lease on office space by 41 percent. That space is intended for the health department being created by the county that Jacobson mentioned.
Still, the county asserted that it had a surplus of funds last month when it announced it intended to purchase a 213-acre property and turn it into a county park, even though funding for that purchase is likely to be cobbled together from a variety of sources.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com.