Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Authority delays access to Stevens and Lee invoices for 30 days

Over the course of planning the Convention Center, the law firm of Stevens and Lee was paid over $7 million dollars by the Authority, all on the basis of invoices that disclosed nothing other than "For professional services rendered."

Authority board members and critics have long sought and been denied the usual information that accompany legal invoices, to wit: Dates and times worked, rate per hour, person performing the work, and a very brief description of the purpose (as little as a few words.)

Ted Darcus, then Authority Chairman, evoked ongoing litigation as a reason not to permit access to the requested normal information. Critics believed this to be disingenuous, since confidential information was unlikely to appear on invoices and, if it were, could be readily redacted.

All litigation came to an end during 2008. In January, 2009, NewsLanc filed a Right-to-Know request with the Authority requesting the long sought after information. Earlier this week NewsLanc received notification that the LCCCA was exercising its legal right to extend the deadline for response by 30 days.

Controversy is not new for the Reading law firm's activities in Lancaster County. Serious questions were raised concerning the amount of its invoices pertaining to the sale of Conestoga View. Also a member of Stevens and Lee was county solicitor and guided the former commissioners concerning compliance with the Sunshine Act.

NewsLanc concurs with board members and public critics that access to the records is indispensable to achieve the public’s lawful right and need for transparency.