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Legal services Legislature makes budget adjustment

Friday, July 25, 2014 - Updated: 10:16 AM


FONDA -- The Montgomery County Legislature reconsidered and approved a resolution Tuesday to amend the 2014 operating budget by $37,128 for investigation and legal assistance services in the public defender's office.

The resolution, which passed 6-1 at Tuesday's regular board meeting, was not on the agenda but District 6 Legislator John Duchessi Jr. made a motion for the board to reconsider it following a brief discussion.

Chairman and District 2 Legislator Thomas Quackenbush and District 3 Legislator Roy Dimond were absent.

The resolution was voted down last month after legislators raised concerns about how the public defender was to use the funds, which are part of a $111,384 state Indigent Legal Services grant awarded in 2013.

"We still don't know if we are in violation of the agreement," said District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly, the lone dissenting vote.

District 9 Alexander Kuchis asked if the legislature was allowed to reconsider a resolution already voted down but county attorney Douglas Landon said they were following the process outlined in the rules of procedure.

"Tonight is the only window of opportunity," he said, adding a resolution voted down can only be reconsidered at the next meeting of the legislature.

The resolution was called into question at June's board meeting when legislators noticed that the funds were being used for contractual services rather than hiring employees, requiring a transfer of funds from insurance and benefits to physical services.

Quackenbush told the body that when the former board of supervisors accepted the grant in 2013, the funds were supposed to be used to hire an investigator and legal assistant aide so the money was put into the budget accordingly.

The issue caused a 20-minute debate as to whether the funds were being used in compliance with the agreement and if the legislature should move forward on the amendment to the budget.

Landon had said the resolution was for approval of changing the budget and had nothing to do with the grant itself.

"This not the final step so you are not doing anything improper," he said at the time.

However, many of the legislators were not comfortable with moving forward. District 8 Legislator Joseph Isabel made a motion to table the resolution. The legislature opted instead to vote on the resolution, which was defeated.


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