Why Can't Lower Merion's Solicitor Talk to The Public?

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carla's picture
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Last night a very nice person tried to ask Solicitor Gil High a question at the LMT meeting. She was rebuffed, and QUITE rudely so. As a matter of fact she got, almost verbatim, the same asinine quip that Andy Meyers received when he tried to ask the solicitor a question recently. The solicitor doesn't speak to the public, only works for the board, you have no right to address the solicitor directly blah, blah, blah.

I am not going to get into the character of the Lower Merion solicitor or discuss his abilities or lack of abilities because that is immaterial to where I am going. What I want to know is why is it in Haverford Township or Radnor Township if a citizen wants to ask the solicitor a question they can? Why is it in other Main Line municipalities the public can interact with their municipality's solicitor within reason? Yet in Lower Merion we can't speak to the solicitor, can't address the solicitor, can't call or e-mail the solicitor?

Yes in Lower Merion we can't interact and sometimes I wonder if the Lower Merion Solicitor is even paying attention to what is going on at meetings because once again last night he got caught off-guard several times - and then he blinks and gets that deer in headlights look.

You know what I have discovered? Even if you DON'T live in Radnor or Haverford Township if you have a question or comment for the solicitor of those municipalities, they will respond to you and they are both pretty darn nice to boot - that would be John Rice and Jim Byrne, respectively.

When I told Radnor's solicitor a while back that it was nice to be able to ask a township solicitor a question, let alone converse with one, he was surprised and kind of asked me why that was. So I told him - in Lower Merion residents are generally not permitted and are absolutely discouraged from speaking directly to the solicitor, you can't ask the solicitor a direct question, you can't contact the solicitor.

What did John Rice say to me? That he tries to respond to residents because he just considers it good customer service.

But we're talking about Lower Merion and I have learned not to expect much and lately to simply expect the worst.

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politeia's picture
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Gil High is supposed to work for the commissioners, the township and the People of Lower Merion Township. In my view, the People always come first.

However, Gil High constantly shows disdain towards the public. Maybe it is a Penn/Princeton thing for me as I went to the former and he went to the latter with Penn students/alumnae viewing many who went to Princeton as elitist and arrogant bastards.

However, Gil High's actions go beyond that. He never shows any respect for the People and serves the commissioners as if they are an almighty authority that must always be defended when in public view.

Without getting into my specific issues with High, he does not do his job properly as he only looks out for the interests of the township and board and always considers the citizens of Lower Merion adversaries.

He is an appointed public official and his job is to represent all of Lower Merion Township - and especially its citizens, in a fair and equitable manner.

He has demonstrated time and time again that he does not do this. No doubt this makes arrogant commissioners who look down on the People happy and that is why he keep getting re-appointed.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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justcurious's picture
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I can't comment on Mr. High's attitude or the way he interacts with the public. But I have a feeling that he actually does not represent the people of the township. I could be wrong, but I think solicitors represent only the elected body. That does not, of course, give him the right to treat the public with disdain. Maybe someone else who is more familiar with the role of municipal solicitors can shed some light on this.

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politeia's picture
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Attorney General Tom Corbett and a Grand Jury Of Our Peers disagree in regards to criminal behavior uncovered in Haverford Township in the recent past.

Per AG Corbett’s press release that involved the arrest of a Haverford Township Commissioner:

The grand jury found that between September 2002 and November 2004 certain public officials in Haverford Township ignored their duty to keep the public and fellow elected officials informed about official actions.

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Corbett said the grand jury also found that other township officials who were aware of these secret activities chose to remain ignorant of the details or remain silent about the misconduct of their colleagues.

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The Haverford Township solicitor repeatedly acted as if his clients were only the majority commissioners and not the township, its citizens and taxpayers.

What’s interesting is how similar these grand jury findings are to my sworn Complaints About LMT and Solicitor Gil High, as well as to concerns by taxpayer-owners of LMT like Audrey Romasco and others seeking Sunshine and open meetings. This Grand Jury Report demonstrates what can go on behind these closed doors.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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onewhocares's picture
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I think his problem last night was that he wasn't on solid ground with his opinion. I think a lot of his opinions on the Sunshine Act are just a bluff because that is what Cleland, Reed et al. want to hear. Some of the commissioners are beginning to realize that his "interpretation" of the Sunshine Act may not shield them.

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politeia's picture
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No doubt Gil High has one allegiance, and that is to the board majority.

When Republicans were in control, his legal “interpretations” always supported what that majority wanted. Now that the Democrats are in control, his legal “interpretations” always support what the Democrat majority wants.

He never gives any deference to citizens and their questions and always makes his response to the board majority and in favor of the board majority.

This is a disgrace where he violates his professional code of conduct as a lawyer. No doubt I have witnessed him misrepresent issues I have had before the board.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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How much does Gil High get paid?

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Hugh Gordon's picture
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The information is contained in the Budget for 2010, sort of. On page 127 the budget for the Legal Office is shown as: General Counsel $108,000, and litigation counsel services and special projects $231,000;various labor counsel services $40,000; costs, filing fees etc. $15,500. Presumably High's base is the $108,000, and who knows how the additional $231,000 is allocated.

I have often wondered as he sits there at BOC meetings (six hours on the night of December 16-17) working on his computer, who else he is billing, and whether he gets a flat rate that includes attendance at those meetings or whether there is a per hour charge, or a per hour charge over a certain maximum built into his base fee. Of course, even though the taxpayers pay for this stuff, they have to go through contortions to get precise answers. My nickname for Gil High is "never heard of a conflict that couldn't be waived."

I once asked him during a break in a statutorily required public hearing on a zoning change, with about three commissioners in attendance, whether there was a quorum requirement for public hearings. He evidently thought that was an outlandish concept, and said that there was no quorum requirement, but solemnly assured me that the commissioners who were absent would carefully review the video of the hearing before making up their minds.

I had to laugh out loud at 1:45 a.m. on December 17 when he advised the BOC that their own ordinance providing that the Planning Commission "shall" review the capital budget didn't mean that the PC had to review the budget, just that it would be nice if it did. Telling them, in other words, that their own ordinance was meaningless verbiage. I didn't disagree with the ultimate conclusion, i.e., that the budget would be validly passed whether or not the Planning Commission had reviewed it, but it was clear that he felt he had to reach a certain result and didn't mind how he got there.

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bobguzzardi's picture
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Thanks

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LMT Observer's picture
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A post by Carla 3 months ago seems pretty relevant to this thread too:

And isn't it interesting that according to the Township Solicitor, we don't need among other things, an ethics board? And let's not get into the topic of selective sunshine.....

Posted by carla on Wed, 2009-12-09 16:18

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LMT Observer's picture
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Observer's often wondered the same thing that Carla wonders:

sometimes I wonder if the Lower Merion Solicitor is even paying attention to what is going on at meetings because once again last night he got caught off-guard several times - and then he blonks and gets that deer in headlights look.

Observer's also wondered something close to what Hugh Gordon often has:

I have often wondered as he sits there at BOC meetings (six hours on the night of December 16-17) working on his computer, who else he is billing, and whether he gets a flat rate that includes attendance at those meetings or whether there is a per hour charge, or a per hour charge over a certain maximum built into his base fee.

The fact that Solicitor High often needs a synopsis of the issue being discussed when he is asked a question contributes to the curiosity: What is our Solicitor working on while he is is working for the Board, and apparently also for LM citizens as established in this SAC thread, during BOC meetings?

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LMT Observer's picture
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Comments in this thread about experiences with Solictor High's responsiveness to citizen inquiries make this observer wonder something else: Did Solictor High and Township Treasurer Samuel Adenbaum take the same Township course on how to treat the public?

A Broader Problem in Lower Merion Township? "Officials' " Treatment of Citizens?

If so, maybe Jenny Brown would be willing to teach the course next time it's offered.

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politeia's picture
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Methinks somebody needs to be spying remotely on High's laptop to see if he is billing other clients while on the township dime.

Perhaps the D.A. could get involved and do it the legal way - with a search warrant issued by a judge, given that the D.A. is apparently now investigating High.

Now that High will be onto this as he is no doubt reading this thread, perhaps a warrant taking his whole computer to see what he has been up to is in order, and it will be interesting to see if he is typing away next township meeting.

I note the new Radnor Solicitor is always listening closely to proceedings and rarely on a laptop at township meetings as he bills the taxpayer-owners of Radnor Township for his time, yet High is always constantly and madly typing away doing who knows what, and it is correct, when a question is asked of him he very often is caught off guard and has no idea what the question is.

The sheer arrogance. I guess he gets it from Boss Tweed Reed.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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outtathere's picture
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On what grounds is the DA investigating High?

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"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.":Gil Scott-Heron 1970 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGaRtqrlGy8

politeia's picture
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His role in mailing me a Criminally Fabricated Police Report in an effort to intimidate me and thus prevent me from exercising my rights.

Now, whether D.A. Risa Vetri-Ferman actually investigates this or brushes it under the carpet is another story that I will address depending on the outcome.

For the time being, I am thankful commissioners Rosenzweig, Brown and Gelber have forwarded this to the D.A.

The D.A., however, has a conflict of interest in regards to all of this and should forward it to Attorney General Corbett's office.

I have a contact with AG Corbett’s office who will tell me if that has been done.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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