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Trump, South to Lead Knightstown Council
January 16, 2008 - As it begins 2008 with three new members, the Knightstown Town Council will also have new leadership.
During a special meeting last Wednesday, Ward 2 council member Valerie Trump was unanimously chosen to be the council's president. Trump has served on the council since early 2005, when she was appointed to finish the term of Darrell Haines, and she faced no opposition in her bid for reelection in 2006.
Ward 1 council member Clyde South was unanimously approved as the council's vice president. He was one three independents who unseated the Republican incumbents who ran for reelection in the Ward 1, 3 and 4 races last November.
Amid concerns about legal representation provided to the town, the council decided to delay renewal of the the town's yearly contract for legal services with Attorney David Copenhaver and his New Castle firm, Hayes Copenhaver & Crider. The town's most recent contract with the law firm, which is believed to have represented the town since at least the late 1980s, expired December 31.
New Ward 4 council member Terry Guerin suggested the council contact Copenhaver to see if he would agree to a 90-day extension on the contract. Guerin said that would give the council time to meet with Copenhaver for an update on legal issues affecting the town, review his firm's records, and look into other possible options for legal representation.
Ward 5 council member Steve Nelson said he thought the council needed to act promptly on this issue due to pending litigation involving the town. While he said he had no problem offering Copenhaver a 90-day extension, he asked what the town would do if the attorney declined.
"We get another attorney," Guerin replied, adding, "I'm sure there are other law firms out there that would be interested in providing those services."
Under the contract that expired December 31, the town paid Hayes Copenhaver & Crider an annual retainer of $7,200, paid $600 monthly, for an attorney to attend the council's regular monthly meetings. For most other work the firm's attorneys did, the town was to be charged $175 an hour.
South said he thought the contract that just expired had been generous. He said he would like to discuss whether the contract's terms are reasonable and whether the town has gotten good representation for its money.
Guerin said he wanted to review three year's worth of billing statements from Copenhaver's firm to see how much they've been paid. He said he was also interested in seeing what work the firm has done for the town during that time.
Looking at a copy of billing statement from April 2006, South said he also had questions about some of the firm's charges. "It seems to me the guy is making a living off of representing Knightstown," he said.
Guerin said some of the bills he had already reviewed showed Copenhaver's firm was paid more than $20,000 from the town one year. Clerk-Treasurer Judy Haines and Trump both said that town annexation efforts and the establishment of the town's legal boundaries in 2006 accounted for a lot of that.
"It was costly to put the town map boundary together," Trump said. "Just like putting the comprehensive plan together last year - we incurred legal expenses that were over and above the norm."
Acting on a motion made by Guerin and seconded by Nelson, the council unanimously agreed to propose the 90-day contract extension to Copenhaver and meet with him to review the town's legal affairs. Council members will also submit names of other potential attorneys to Haines to contact for possible interviews with the town.
In other business, the council agreed to use inmates from the state correctional facility in New Castle for cleaning services at Knightstown Town Hall, the town court and police department. Works manager Mel Matlock told the council these inmates would be available twice a week, and that the prison provides supervision and transportation of the inmates.
The council also discussed the town's towing contract with Tom True, which renewed automatically at the end of November. At Trump’s request, Nelson and South agreed to look into the town’s need for a fire protection contract with the Knightstown-Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department.
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