Taxpayers Foot Lawmakers' Legal Fees

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- Taxpayers are underwriting hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and consultants' fees as a grand jury investigation into legislative bonuses unfolds.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House have hired outside law firms to represent them in the investigation by the state attorney general over whether bonuses were paid to staffers as compensation for campaign work.

The House Democrats have run up the largest bills so far -- almost $500,000 in legal and consulting costs. It is unclear from House records what portion of that expenditure was strictly legal costs.

House Democrats have paid about $280,000 to Chadwick Associates, a risk management firm based in Washington that is headed by former state Inspector General Bill Chadwick, who has provided legal advice. He was hired in March and began providing legal advice in October.

House Democrats paid nearly $121,000 to Philadelphia law firm Obermayer Rebman Maxwell and Hippel, and $81,000 to the Downtown law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellot, House records show.

More than $3.6 million in bonuses were paid to legislative staffers in 2005 and 2006 -- two-thirds of them by House Democrats.

Eckert Seamans represented the House Democrats in litigation related to a search warrant executed on the caucus in August, said Tom Andrews, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D- Greene County. The firm handled "important constitutional questions regarding the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government," Andrews said.

Robert Graci, a former Commonwealth Court judge and one-time deputy attorney general who is with Eckert Seamans, argued the House Democrats' unsuccessful case to quash subpoenas last summer. …