Invoices detail hidden legal work in Hoosick Falls
Invoices detail hidden legal work in Hoosick Falls.
Hoosick Falls A law firm hired by Hoosick Falls to negotiate with two companies blamed for polluting water supplies billed the village tens of thousands of dollars to provide public relations advice and to serve as the gatekeeper for numerous Freedom of Information Law requests filed by news organizations.
More than 50 pages of invoices detailing the work of the Glens Falls law firm, FitzGerald Morris Baker Firth, were turned over to the Times Union late Monday in response to a formal request for the records that was filed by the newspaper in early January.
Mayor Rob Allen released the records after the village board voted unanimously Monday night to terminate its contract with the law firm — in part, he said, because of information that was revealed in the billing statements.
The information blacked-out in the invoices, when compared with the documents released by the village this week, indicates the law firm concealed details of its work that an open-government expert said should have been made public, including the firm’s work vetting and responding to Times Union FOIL requests.
"If something is included that reflects legal strategy, or legal opinion, or attorney-client privilege then yes, redactions could be made.
In another instance, the law firm redacted a reference to its contact with the village’s treasurer in January 2016 on the same day the Times Union requested a copy of its retainer agreement with the village.
The invoices indicate that portion of the settlement was something Saint-Gobain requested as early as December 2015, about a month into the negotiations.
Throughout the last 17 months, the invoices indicate that at times the law firm conducted research about the potential for municipalities to recoup money from corporate polluters such as DuPont, which previously manufactured PFOA and has paid tens of millions of dollars to settle personal-injury lawsuits and claims for pollution of water supplies.
In February, as public pressure intensified for the village board to revoke the settlement agreement — Borge was the only village board member to vote in favor of the deal — the invoices show the law firm researched cases where municipalities had filed lawsuits against corporate polluters and lost.