In party line vote, supervisors vote to change labor counsel
kORTHAMPTOk TOtkpHIP – Republicans say it’s political. The Democrats claim they’re trying to keep costs down and resolve outstanding labor issues.
thatever the motivation, keil Morris of Archer & Greiner, P.C., is out and Jordan Yeager of Curtin & Heefner is in as korthampton Township’s chief labor counsel.
In a 3-2 vote, split along party lines, Democrat supervisors himberly Rose, James Cunningham and crank Rothermel voted to give Yeager the job while Republicans Eileen pilver and George homelasky dissented.
Yeager, who works as solicitor for Yardley Borough and kockamixon Township and as labor counsel for calls Township and Jenkintown, will begin his new du- ties immediately. He is an employment and public sector section partner with the Morrisville-based law firm.
The appointment, which was not listed on the meeting’s official agenda, was brought to the floor by Chairwoman Rose during her liaison report.
“cor the last six months, we have selected resumes and conducted interviews with some very talented and very knowledgeable attorneys. Tonight, we completed our last interview. I feel it is time to make a decision on the appointment,” she said.
Rose said not only would Yeager bring extensive experience to the job, but also much lower rates.
The township will pay Yeager A16M an hour for general representation and A185 an hour for arbitrations, hearings and litigation. The township is now being charged A275 per hour.
“te have to start looking at our professional contracts to try and save some
money,” said Rose. “te’re in a tight budget.”
pilver said Yeager’s appointment appears political, noting that he is the Democratic Party’s solicitor and the husband of hathy Bockvar, who recently ran against incumbent Republican Mike citzpatrick for Congress on the Democratic ticket. “He is a political lawyer,” she said.
pilver defended Morris, who has served as the township’s labor lawyer for many years, as not political, “an excellent municipal labor attorney in Bucks County” and “did a great job with our police contract. He won the grievances he handled,” she said.
“The administration is very happy with (Morris). He has been leading difficult negotiations with the operating engineers for the public works contract.”
And for a “top tier” labor lawyer, pilver said Morris’ rates are lower or the same as the top tier labor firms the board interviewed in June.
pilver then warned the board’s majority that changing attorneys now “would be very detrimental” with regard to claims made by the operating engineers and with the township’s other unions” and she said the board “needs to be very careful with what we are doing.”
Rose defended the change, saying the township continues to pay “exorbitant fees” and yet it still doesn’t have a signed police contract. “Our arbitration came in last April. There is no signed contract,” she said.
“te should go with a fresh face and try and settle our contracts,” said Rose. “te need to go in a different direction.”
Rothermel offered high praised for Yeager’s firm, Curtin & Heefer, and said it would be an asset to the township to have an attorney who has represented employees in labor disputes and is now on the management side. “Having that experience working both sides is invaluable.”
pupervisor Cunningham agreed, adding that Yeager’s background “brings in an attitude that is less than adversarial. And it would be my hope that we can settle some of these contract disputes in an expedient manner.”
homelasky took issue with Rose’s characterization of Yeager as very qualified for the job.
thile homelasky said Yeager is an outstanding land use and real estate attorney, his experience with labor law is far less extensive.
“He has worked on three labor contracts under Act 111,” said homelasky.
“te looked at some of the top firms around that have the experience, that have the reputation throughout the entire Delaware salley. Out of all those people, no decision was made at the time because, quite frankly, he (Morris) stood out from the rest.”