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'You Can Never Budget to Be Sued'

Town Councilman Nick Kapoor wants more funding to be set aside for lawsuits, but First Selectman Steve Vavrek doesn't want to over-budget.

Legal expenses have been soaring over what the town has been budgeting to cover the costs, so Town Councilman Nick Kapoor wants more money to be set aside for legal fees in 2013-14. But First Selectman Steve Vavrek, who says lawsuits are impossible to predict, is not requesting an increase for legal expenses.

"I'm not gonna inflate the budget," Vavrek said during a Town Council budget workshop last Thursday. "I want to be fiscally conservative."

Legal expenses are covered in the selectman's operating budget and $97,000 was budgeted for in 2011-12, when expenses came in at $689,611. So far this fiscal year, legal expenses are $215,241 through the first seven months, though $130,000 is budgeted to pay for it.

Vavrek is again asking for a $130,000 legal budget for 2013-14.

Kapoor said the budget was over by 95% three years ago, so he believes the legal budget should be higher due to the three year trend.

Though the first selectman agreed 2011-12 was a bad year, he disagrees with Kapoor's call for more funding because of how unpredictable litigation can be.

"You can never budget to be sued," Vavrek said. "And you can never budget for a storm."

Donna Gail February 19, 2013 at 01:16 PM
I have to disagree with the First Selectman. You CAN and SHOULD budget better than he is doing. Review what lawsuits are ongoing, and also put in some type of estimate for new lawsuits, and use maybe your last five years as a basis. He says he wants to be fiscally prudent. Was he fiscally prudent in using the law firms last year? Were all the legal fees spent related to law suits, or did he rely on legal consulting more than he should have? It's not fiscally prudent to under-budget something and then have to take out the funds from somewhere else in the budget. Why not compromise and budget for more like $3- or $400,000? It looks to me like he's just being downright stubborn. Maybe storms and lawsuits are hard to predict, but you can still budget for them responsibly!
Mike Ganino February 19, 2013 at 01:36 PM
If legal expense for three years in a row has been significantly higher than budgeted expense, even taking into consideration the outlier year when it was extremely high, unless there's some specific lawsuit that's winding down, the legal expense for the next year appears to be under budgeted. With all due respect to the First Selectman, being fiscally conservative does not mean ignoring the reality of what the normal expense should be and budgeting for it. To ignore this adds fuel to those who believe there's "fluff" somewhere else to cover it should the actual expense be over budget again.
QWERTY February 19, 2013 at 04:47 PM
What the hell is this guy talking about? You can most certainly budget to be sued and budget for storms! And it's not "fiscally conservative" to ask for a new $30K SUV, for year-round use with these absurd gas prices. The bigger picture being ignored here is why the town is being sued in the first place. Who represents the town in such manners?
Alex February 19, 2013 at 04:53 PM
"So far this fiscal year, legal expenses are $215,241 through the first seven months, though $130,000 is budgeted to pay for it." We're already over budget significantly for the current fiscal year by 85K! The first selectman needs to explain himself why he thinks 130K would suffice for next years. We need to allocate more money to legal (that means cuts elsewhere not an increase in the budget) and stop getting into so many lawsuits with homeowners and businesses.
Alex February 19, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Maybe this is why we're spending so much money on legal expenses: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Towns-to-pay-3-5M-in-deadly-cop-raid-4290145.php That's basically murder right there. Very disgusting.
Crown Royal February 19, 2013 at 06:04 PM
I just saw that. If divided equally among the towns that 700K, however since it was our brass that killed him, I wouldnt be surprised if we take on more of the burden.
PlumbBob February 19, 2013 at 08:14 PM
I would still like to know why our town attorney is unable to handle the majority of these cases and why there has been such a need to hire outside resources and representation?
Non-Fiction February 19, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Good question PlumbBob. I have been wondering the same. I also wonder why there are so many lawsuits against our town over the last few years. The town is also on record as hiring a very expensive law firm to handle these cases. Most of these lawsuits seem to be coming out of the Planning & Zoning Commission. I would like to see Patch investigate this.
uc14 February 20, 2013 at 04:10 AM
im gonna have to agree with qwerty, "I'm not gonna inflate the budget," Vavrek said during a Town Council budget workshop last Thursday. "I want to be fiscally conservative." ....and now im reading that he wants 30k for a new car? the crown vic is more than enough as it is in my opinion; but you can't shoot down another person's idea on the basis of being fiscally conservative, then go on to ask for a luxury expense. not exactly sure what emergency situations that aren't manageable by a phone call during the whopping 1 or 2 major snowstorms we get each year.
Jim beam February 20, 2013 at 08:59 PM
"I'm not gonna inflate the budget by including costs that we know we're going to incur because that's going to make the budget much too high", appears to be Vavrek's reasoning. What is he talking about? Perhaps this is a new method of budget preparation. Keep estimates low or "conservative". When actual expenses come in so much higher, then he can claim. "who knew?" Even though historical costs dictate budgeting more for a line item, Vavrek considers it more "conservative" to budget a lesser amount. Wow. That is some "out of the box" thinking right there. Are any of the budgeted numbers realistic? Leadership like Vavrek's scares me. "Conservative"? Yeah, right. Words have lost their meaning if this is fiscally conservative budgeting.
Alex February 20, 2013 at 09:01 PM
That police homicide case from 2008 was likely too much for our town attorney to handle. A lot of our legal expenses are a result of that case (between the original case, and the appeal (why did we appeal?)). A case that runs for 4 years and involves a homicide committed by a town policeman is not cheap.
Crown Royal February 20, 2013 at 09:38 PM
You can find a line-by-line copy of the budget here: http://www.monroect.org/systems/file_download.aspx?pg=5760&ver=2 There are some pretty crazy numbers in there, especially concerning salaries.
Crown Royal February 20, 2013 at 09:40 PM
BTW, According to the Monroect.org website there is a Budget workshop tonight. Wednesday, February 20, 2013 Town Council Budget Workshop Session: 7:00 PM Conference Room 204 - Town Hall
Oldblooeyz February 21, 2013 at 02:57 AM
Of course you can budget for legal expenses. A decent finance professional and most business people know this.

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