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MUA says it won't pay -- New lawyers to fight old lawyers
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2004/9/15 19:03
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Lawyers to fight the lawyers MUA says it won't pay
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

L awyers, lawyers everywhere, at least at the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority, where the agency is fighting a lawsuit filed by its former general counsel, who claims the authority refuses to pay $162,551.53 owed in legal fees.

The current general counsel, Elnardo Webster II, of Booker, Rabinowitz, is representing all of the MUA commissioners in the lawsuit except one - Janet Gaita.

Gaita, an alternate board member, thinks the board's former general counsel, Gold, Albanese, Barletti & Velazquez, of Morristown, has a justifiable beef and should get paid.

How was this tangled web woven?

In 2004, the MUA hired Gold Albanese in a one-year contract, not to exceed $90,000. However, a provision of the agreement said since neither the firm nor the authority could anticipate the precise amount of legal services that might be required, the authority had the right to review the billings if they exceeded $90,000.

At that time one of the partners, Ray Velazquez, was also a Hudson County freeholder and a member in good standing of Hudson County's Democratic Party apparatus.

Times change.

Velazquez fell out of favor with party bigwigs. Whether this affected its MUA contract is anybody's guess, but the board decided the company had overbilled and refused to pay $162,000 over the fixed $90,000 amount.

Gaita believes MUA officials signed off on the Gold, Albanese legal bills - a claim the water officials deny.

Some sources say that one of the Gold, Albanese attorneys might have committed the egregious faux pas of questioning aspects of the goings on between the MUA and United Water, the private company contracted to operate Jersey City's two reservoirs and its water system.

Other political observers point out that MUA legal contracts held by its current legal counsel, Booker, Rabinowitz, have ballooned from $50,000 a year to $250,000.

A second law firm, Rieker, Danzig, retained by the agency is also pulling down about $250,000 a year and sources say there has to be more to the board's refusal to pay Gold, Albanese than a paltry $162,000.

So now another law firm has been hired to represent Gaita.

At last month's MUA meeting, the board - reluctantly, but without alternative - voted to hire Giblin and Giblin of Oradel to represent Gaita, even though she may offer testimony directly contradicting her colleagues.

Your tax dollars at work.

Posted on: 2006/8/22 18:21

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