County solicitor sole contestant in running for opioid litigation

The Lycoming County commissioners opened a single bid Tuesday for a law firm to act as co-counsel in potential litigation against the pharmaceutical industry, an action that many other government entities nationwide are pursuing.

The sole bidder was McCormick Law Firm, the county’s contracted soliciting firm. It proposed a flat contingency fee of 25 percent of the lead counsel’s fee, with an increase to 33 percent if the litigation goes to trial.

The county went out to bid after receiving a proposal from a local attorney suggesting the county choose a local counsel to advise in the start of the case as well as help choose a lead counsel, likely to be a larger law firm already overseeing other cases against the industry, said Commissioner Tony Mussare.

“The three commissioners believe that, to just give it to that local attorney without having other firms notified and (able to) put in a bid, just would not have served our constituents well,” he said.

In doing so, the commissioners believed they would receive three or four proposals, Mussare added.

Going out to bid again creates a disadvantage for the initial bidder, because competitors know the numbers, he said

“I’m not comfortable opening this proposal and then possibly rejecting it,” he said. “I believe something was missed.”

“I think the legal way of handling this would be to open it,” advised J. Michael Wiley, solicitor. “You would still have the rights that you would ordinarily have relative to any bid … to reject or accept for any reason.”

The proposal had to be disclosed on the date the opening was advertised, agreed Wiley and Deputy Controller Nicki Brelsford.

In order to remain distant from a proposal submitted by his employer, Wiley said the controller’s office will handle its review.

“I spoke with Nicki (Brelsford) ahead of (the meeting) and indicated to her that I should not make a statement as to its completeness today, as I ordinarily would,” he said. “She will review it and, if there are any questions that require legal review, her office’s solicitor will do that.”

The proposal needs to be reviewed and shared with Commissioner Rick Mirabito, who was absent Tuesday, before a decision can be made, said Commissioner Jack McKernan.

In another matter, county Children and Youth Services is seeking approval to allocate funds to eight local organizations out of the Human Service Development Fund, issued by the state.

The following allocations are proposed:

• $20,000 to Confer Home Health Services LLC for adult homemaker services.

• $3,000 to Favors Forward for information and referral services.

• $10,000 both to American Rescue Workers and the YWCA’s Liberty House for emergency shelter services.

• $16,000 both to the Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action and to Firetree Place for life skills educational services.

• $4,000 to Jersey Shore Summer Recreation Inc. for life skills education services.

• $2,000 to Project CoffeeHouse for the Montgomery Summer Alive program.

Other items to be considered Thursday include two annual software renewals in the amounts of $43,589 for the Department of Public Safety and $15,244 for the Adult Probation Office, approval of a conflict attorney in Judge Marc F. Lovecchio’s office at a rate of $3,333 per month, and more.

The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday in Executive Plaza.

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