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Albion can’t reach consensus on hiring town attorney

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 January 2014 at 12:00 am

ALBION – The town is without an official attorney because a faction of the Town Board wants to bring back Robert Roberson of Lockport for the job while other board members would prefer a less pricey attorney from Orleans County.

Roberson served as attorney for the town in 2012 and 2013 for $36,000 annually as a base retainer fee. John Gavenda of Albion served in the role before the board two years ago picked Roberson. That board was led by then Town Supervisor Dennis Stirk.

Matt Passarell, the new town supervisor, wants a different attorney, but he needs at least three of the five members of the board to agree to the change. Passarell last week tried to bring Gavenda back at a $25,000 cost, but board members Dan Poprawski, Jake Olles and Todd Sargent wouldn’t vote for Gavenda.

Passarell on Monday said he wanted to appoint Andrew Meier of Medina as town attorney at a base retainer cost of $25,000. Councilman Richard Remley joined Passarell in support of Meier, who also works as town attorney for Gaines, Yates and Kendall.

“Andrew Meier is extremely qualified in municipal law,” Passarell said.

Sargent and Olles both said they wanted Roberson.

“You know what you’re getting,” Sargent said about Roberson.

Olles said he would prefer an out-of-county attorney who may bring more independence. He noted Albion would be Meier’s fourth municipal client.

Meier was at the Albion meeting on Monday. He works with David Schubel in a law practice in Medina. Schubel also works with municipalities.

The $25,000 is more than Meier’s other towns are charged. He is paid $600 a month or $7,200 a year by Gaines and Kendall, and $7,500 by Yates. Albion has about three times the population as each of those towns. Albion also is planning several zoning and policy changes this year as the town works to implement a comprehensive plan.

Meier’s proposal would include the legal work for the zoning changes. He would receive additional compensation for litigation and other “unpredictable” work for the town.

Poprawski looks like the swing vote for attorney. Poprawski didn’t vote on Monday, saying he wanted more time to study Meier’s proposal and compare it with Roberson’s.

Passarell said he didn’t understand the delay. Meier is well-versed in municipal law and will work for less cost than Roberson, Passarell said.

“You want to pay more for an attorney?” he said.

The board will meet again Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. to vote again to fill the position.