Rice Board Approves Controversial Legal Items

The Rice Township Board of Supervisors approved two controversial agenda items at their public meeting Tuesday July 1, 2014. An Executive Session pertaining to litigation was held before the public meeting.

A payment to Elliot, Greenleaf and Dean for legal services rendered in the month of April for $4,538.92 and $3,695.00 for May totaling $8,233.92 was approved by supervisors Miller Stella and Mark Taney. Board Chairman Marcia Thomas recused herself.

Solicitor Jack Dean explained to Stella that the bills were for extensive reviews of Rice Township phone bill records from January 2010 to June 2014 to comply with a Right To Know Request filed by Attorney Jeffrey Rockman. Rockman represented Marcia Thomas in her defamation and whistle blower lawsuit against Rice Township that was settled in April for $200,000.

Before the vote Stella asked Dean, “Have I done anything wrong?”

Solicitor Dean responded, “We struck all personal id numbers from the phone bills on the report. I found nothing wrong in any current supervisors or employees using the cell phones.”

Stella persisted, “Why did we spend this money, when I didn’t do anything wrong?” Stella Addressed Thomas, “Attorney Rockman is your attorney. There has to be a reason for it. I believe you (Dean) should be paid. You provided the service.”

Dean said that the portion of the services listed on the bills for the Right to Know compliance was $5700.

A second item to authorize payment of $55,415.00 to Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Risk Management Association (PIRMA) for liability insurance coverage from August 1, 2014 for one year was debated by Stella and Dean.

Stella said, “Last year the premium was $29,000. I was told that our rates were not going up. That is what I was told by PIRMA.” Stella suggested looking for alternative insurance.

Solicitor Dean explained that Rice Township is part of pooled insurance with PIRMA and other municipalities in Pennsylvania. He said that the township could look ahead in changing for the future, but that it may not be feasible because of service requirements.

Thomas interjected, “Exposures to liability is not something that we want to talk about at a public meeting It would be wise to get advice of counsel. Every time we tried to bid this in past years we found that we must include all coverage back to 1982 when Rice Township joined the pool. It is sink or swim with the other municipalities in the pool. Liabilities can be claimed going back to 1982.”

Stella complained that he was not told the truth by the PIRMA insurance company relative to the township’s recent years of litigation.

The three supervisors were unanimous in approving the insurance premium to be paid in the amount of $55,415 to PIRMA for coverage effective August 1, 2014. The breakdown of the renewal includes: General Liability $7,760, Auto Liability $3,222, Law Enforcement Liability $17,685, Public Officials Liability $26, 748. The 2013 PIRMA Insurance premium was $29,736. The 2014 premium increase is 87%.

Ice Lakes resident Tony Ranzie asked why the money donated for fish stocking two years ago has not been put to that use. “ Why haven’t you stocked the lake? He questioned. Why don’t you do it over here at the Ice Lakes?” he pressed.

The two donations of $5,000 each were originally unanimously donated. Thomas said the original $5,000 was used for stocking and the subsequent $5,000 was never put on the agenda in 2013. For the health of the fish the stocking date was to be in October 2013. Thomas responded that the former board was not in favor of stocking. At one time before the

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