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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Debt Collector Likely to Be Confirmed as NorCo Solicitor

Ryan Durkin
To NorCo Council member Hayden Phillips, the confirmation of Ryan Durkin as the County's new Solicitor is a no-brainer. "Ryan's a lawyer. He has solid work experience. Did a Google search. No felonies. No misdemeanors. No moral lapses. And the Executive feels like he could work with Ryan. That's good enough for me." Whether he's good enough for five members of Council is the question that will be decided tonight. Five votes are needed to confirm a cabinet pick. He'll probably get them in another vote along party lines,. But is it the right choice?

I'd say No. I agree that an Executive's picks for cabinet level positions should be given great deference. And Durkin certainly does have a law degree, and is the person Brown wants. But a Solicitor is more than Brown's legal mouthpiece. He represents the people of Northampton County in all civil matters. Historically, the position has been conferred only on the County's top lawyers. Legal scholars like Bill Moran and Jack Panella, who went on to become distinguished jurists. Even now, former Solicitor Vic Scomillio is running for Judge. Brown would like to give this important position to a debt collection lawyer. One who does not even live in this County. Having reflected on it, I find the choice insulting.

It's insulting to the attorneys who preceded Durkin and accepted a low salary for a part-time position. They were there to serve the County and make it a better place. Durkin is there for the dough.. In response to a question from Ken Kraft, he conceded he's not even a member of the Northampton County Bar and has no familiarity with the County's judges or its lawyers.

Durkin has done some work for two counties, but mostly in the same role that predators like Portnoff Law occupy. He's a tax farmer. A hired gun who goes after poor bastards who fall behind on their real estate taxes, filing liens and charging outrageous sums as "reasonable" attorney fees. In some people's minds, those are lawyers. In my mind, they are tax farmers. These privatized tax collectors have been viewed with derision since this nation was first formed, yet John Brown is embracing one of them as the Solicitor

With his unilateral changes to the health care plans in place for County workers, we know what John Brown thinks of what he once called "the County's most valuable asset." Now you should know what he thinks of the rest of you. He is bringing in a man who specializes in squeezing nickels and dimes out of taxpayers.

A very real part of what a County Solicitor does requires knowledge of the Pa. Municipalities Planning Code, the Third Class County Code and numerous arcane laws regarding the filing of documents in the various row offices. Durkin, though a lawyer, knows none of this because his practice is focused on different areas.

To make matters worse, he's a tad cocky. "I've read the Home Rule Chater," he told Council member Bob Werner, adding that he's "litigated derivative complaints. I've litigated just about everything under the Sun. The complexity of the Home Rule Charter or the Lackawanna County Administrative Code or the tax laws, I have not found to be tremendously difficult to apprehend."

I apprehend that as a problem

My father used to tell me he knew a lot of people with law degrees, but very few lawyers. As a person who possesses a law degree and was retired before my time as an attorney by a unanimous Pennsylvania Supreme Court, I think this is a bad nomination. The County needs a lawyer, not a tax collector. A lawyer who is willing to tell the executive what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. It makes no difference to me whether Brown can work with him. This man is there to represent the entire County, not just Brown

Brown submitted a letter of recommendation on behalf of Durkin, hoping it might push him over the top. And maybe it will. It's a letter from a Philadelphia lawyer who, like Brown, graduated from Notre Dame and watched Durkin grow up. It establishes that Durkin is a fine man, and I have no doubt that he is. But this job requires a fine lawyer, knowledgeable in municipal law and from this County. We're getting a debt collector. Durkin will be a workin' for the County, collecting $58,000 to shake the money tree.


Anonymous said...

There have been some mighty fine solicitors in Northampton County. I believe Jay Leeson and Stephen Baratta were assistant solicitors. You are right, this man should not be hired as the "solicitor" of Northampton county. You need a person with an extensive background in Municipal law. This is not a position for a person who needs "On the job training". There is no one with experience guiding this ship. The only difference between this ship and the "Titanic" is the Titanic had a orchestra playing as it sank.

Anonymous said...

The S.S. Brownpants is sinking FAST!
They hit the iceburg, they have been taking on water. The band is playing the F'ing Irish song, one last time. Leonardo has drowned.

And John Brown re-arrages the deck chairs. Poor clueless bastard...

Anonymous said...

* arranges

Anonymous said...

Who is this guy and why does Brown fell the need to hire him? Was he recommended by Vic? Another big concern here is his lack of experience involving Human Resources. That is an area where lawsuits can erupt quickly. Look at how the Mancini case was bungled.

Anonymous said...

Never EVER trust those Notre Dame Alums.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I believe Jay Leeson and Stephen Baratta were assistant solicitors. You are right, this man should not be hired as the "solicitor" of Northampton county.

I believe it was Bill Leeson who served as Ass't Solicitor. I can name several distinguished attorneys who have served in that capacity as well. You are right. Steve Baratta was once an Ass't Solicitor.

In the case of the Sheriff, Dalrymple is so highly qualified that i would not have cared if he were from Mars. But in Durkin's case, he can't dsay much beyond saying that he has a law degree. The way he dismissed the HRC and Admin Code are an indication that he (and the rest of us) will be in for a rude awakening. He has a law degree but is no lawyer. he is a bill collector. Amazing that his "extensive" litigation experience never reached Northampton County.

The Solicitor needs to be a bit more than a guy with a law degree and who has no felonies. I get the idea of deference, bit this is an extremely important position. I had no problem with Scomillio there and there are numerous R attorneys who can do the job. Put someone in there who knows what he is doing or this decision is going to cost us money.

Anonymous said...

I watched the video of yesterday's meeting.

I thought Durkin reacted and spoke poorly on his feet - not what I would expect of a lawyer. I also think his relevant experience is lacking, and agree with Werner and Kraft that with 500+ lawyers in NorCo, one of them should be offered the job.

I wonder what connection with Durkin Brown has - this must be another of his buddies.

Anonymous said...

499 Norco lawyers were approached by Brownstain, and refused.
Who wants to be even remotely connected to this circus?

Anonymous said...

Phillips checked Durkin's resume: "I Googled him and found no felonies, no misdemeanors and no moral lapses,"

West Easton residents may want to Google the names of candidates for council before voting. WoW!