Payouts Increase In
By John Emerson
MONTICELLO July 18, 2000 Members of the county legislatures Executive Committee agreed to pay the law firm of Kronish, Lieb, Weiner & Hellman, LLP, up to $75,000 to handle yet another county bankruptcy case.
Legislator Steven Kurlander was the only committee member to vote against the resolution.
The firm has become a fixture in the Concord bankruptcy case and has billed the county more than $1.5 million in legal fees with regard to that case. They also recently settled another longstanding bankruptcy case involving Kaufmans Hillway View Cottages, in which the county was owed more than $400,000 in delinquent taxes.
County Attorney Ira Cohen asked the committee to approve the expenditure because the case, a bankruptcy declared by Esti Estates Ltd., a Bethel bungalow colony, has dragged on for many years. The county is owed more than $700,000 in uncollected property taxes, and the owners of Estis are the same group who owned Kaufmans Hillway.
I think this is getting out of hand, said Kurlander during the committees debate. You keep coming to us and asking for more money for Lieb. Isnt there some way we can hire a bankruptcy lawyer and have him handle these cases in-house?
Cohen said he and his staff in the county attorneys office do handle bankruptcy cases frequently in the course of their duties. He added, however, that those cases are not as complex as the ones that are being assigned to Lieb and his firm.
In the Hillway case, hes gotten a settlement that gives the county most of the money that its owed, and they are also going to reimburse the county for the legal fees, so its not costing the county anything Cohen said.
Dick Lieb got this resolved in six months after it has gone on for years, seconded legislature chairman Rusty Pomeroy. Sometimes you get what you pay for, Steven.
The resolution was approved by the committee and must now be approved by the full legislature at its meeting on Thursday. Because the executive committee of the legislature is comprised of the entire legislative membership, it is likely the resolution will be approved when it is presented for the vote.