Lawmakers introducing bill to address legal-billing problems

TRENTON – The Comptroller report last week that dealt with questionable legal billing at some municipalities and school districts has spurred introduction of legislation.

Republicans Sen. Jennifer Beck and Assembly members Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande said Monday they are introducing a bill to address the problems outlined in the Comptroller report.

Some of the Comptroller recommendations include conducting competitive procurement for legal counsel; executing formal, written contracts with legal counsel; and developing policies regarding the management of legal counsel.

“This bill ensures that we hold school districts accountable for their billing practices,” said Beck in a release. “As we all work to tighten our belts and rein in spending, transparency throughout is key. The comptroller’s recommendations were all sound ones and will help to curb excessive spending on legal fees while creating a more fluid process for the districts involved.”

Among the audit’s findings were that North Bergen had been employing an attorney in a “no-work” job for years and had been paying its municipal counsel more than double what some of the state’s largest cities pay their attorneys.

North Bergen rejected the Comptroller’s findings and said a prosecutor’s investigation revealed no wrong-doing associated with the city’s payment of an attorney.

However, the Comptroller’s office responded that a legal opinion cited by North Bergen did not apply.

Lawmakers introducing bill to address legal-billing problems