Rogers council hires long-distance solicitor

ROGERS – Rogers has a new solicitor who will participate in Village Council meetings by sitting in front of a computer screen at his Cleveland-area law office or home.

“He will not be here physically, but when we request it he will be here physically,” said Councilman Tom Chambers after council agreed at this week’s special meeting to enter into a two-year contract with attorney Luke McConville.

McConville charges a base rate of $95 an hour, including travel time, and to save the village money, he will participate in the monthly council meetings via Skype unless otherwise asked to attend.

“It’s a whole new thing,” Chambers said of the arrangement, which may be the first of its kind for a village solicitor in Columbiana County. “We’ll be the first,” he added.

The village has been without a solicitor since January, after the previous person who held the position quit attending meetings. Chambers learned about McConville, who is solicitor for the Cleveland-area village of Newburgh Heights, and asked him to attend the May council meeting.

While McConville said he could not work for the $150 a month paid the former solicitor (he charges Newburgh Heights $150 per hour), he agreed to submit a contract, and council called the special meeting to consider his proposal.

Councilwoman Marilyn Locke wondered whether the village, with its $68,000 budget, could afford to hire McConville.

“$95 an hour? Sometimes we have two-hour meetings … We’re very seldom under two hours,” she said.

Fiscal Officer Dale Davis also questioned a contract provision requiring McConville to resign should his fees reach 10 percent of village revenue. “That put’s you back into the same position you are now,” he said.

At this point, Chambers asked they go into executive session to discuss the contract, which is allowed. When council emerged 20 minutes later they approved the contract.

Chambers said the reason for the unusual arrangement is to save money because when McConville attends a meeting he will charge $95 an hour starting when he leaves his office in the Cleveland area and until he returns, which would entail about three hours of travel time.

“Right now we can afford it,” Chambers said of the contract, which also calls for McConville to be paid $120 an hour when taking legal action on behalf of the village and $150 per hour for representing the village in court.

The main reason Chambers asked McConville to become their solicitor is because Newburgh Heights used Optotraffic’s speed enforcement camera system. Rogers wants to also hire Optotraffic but not before having an attorney review the proposed contract and ordinance that would give the village the legal authorization to cite motorists.

Council could be ready to act on both proposals as soon as its June 9 regular meeting, which McConville is expected to participate in via Skype.

Davis told council they had better start showing up on time since McConville is likely to begin billing the village immediately when the meeting is supposed to start at 7 p.m. Council meetings are sometimes delayed as much as 30 minutes due to lack of a quorum because some members are late arriving or forget to show up. This week’s special meeting was delayed while Chambers went to a council member’s home to remind them of the meeting after being unable to reach them by phone.