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Legal counsel in controller case approved

Lycoming County commissioners approved additional legal counsel for an elected official in a court case involving the transfer of employees from her department.

County Controller Krista Rogers was represented by her own attorneys in the matter, but will now have more lawyers in her case following action by commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

After two days of court testimony from both sides, Potter County Senior Judge John Leete on May 17 made no ruling, but gave attorneys 20 days to submit post-hearing briefs.

Commissioners took legal action against Rogers for not handing over functions from her office to the budget and finance department.

Rogers has contended commissioners illegally directed such action and of engaging in a power grab.

Commissioners indicated they had no choice but to approve funding for Rogers’ request for additional legal counsel.

Attorneys from Hummel, Lewis & Smith, LLP, Bloomsburg, will be paid $150 per hour with paralegals from the firm receiving $125 per hour.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito said the county can’t simply refuse to fund the request.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable,” he said.

Added Commissioner Scott Metzger: “It’s her right.”

Commissioner Tony Mussare had a slightly different thought on the matter.

“How many attorneys does she need?” he asked. “It just seems unnecessary.”

Rogers, for her part, noted she had no option when the commissioners chose to sue her for actions she took in her position as controller.

In an email to the Sun-Gazette, she stated: “I attached a letter to the fee agreement with Hummel, Lewis and Smith, for the county files, that states ‘Attached legal fee agreement is necessary due to the Controller being sued personally by the Board of Commissioners on 4/20/2021. Since I was acting in my capacity as Controller and they claim no criminal act the County needs to pay for my personal representation as it was in the official acts of my duties according to Pennsylvania Statute.'”

Metzger indicated a decision in the case should be forthcoming before the end of this month.

Mya Toon, chief procurement officer, reported that the county will be seeking bids for emergency repairs to a streambank stabilization project along Muncy Creek in Hughesville.

Mussare said officials might consider having photographs taken downstream of the project before and after its completion to learn the impact on nearby properties.

Work on the project is set for this summer.

In a personnel matter, commissioners approved the hiring of Howard T. Woodruff to fill the vacant position of EMS regional training coordinator at $36,644 per year.

Commissioners also approved the purchase of a rock crusher for the landfill from Wirtgen America, Inc. for $629,500.

In other matters, commissioners approved:

• A $20,000 agreement with Dr. Ronald K. Wright for pathology services involving court matters.

• Payment for leachate hauling services from the landfill with Altoona Water Authority, $23,448, and Kelly Township Municipal Authority, $27,389.

• An agreement with e-ImageDate Corp. for four microfilm readers in the offices of the Register and Recorder and Prothontary at a cost of $10,700.

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