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Residents scrutinize County Attorney’s earnings and contributions in Westmoreland

The Westmoreland County Citizens’ Association has spent an entire year observing their local government in action and looking for ways county government might conserve the tax revenue that it collects.
During the most recent Board of Supervisors meeting, Association President and spokesperson Kennon Morris raised a question about the County Attorney’s position.
“Do we need a County Attorney to be retained during these difficult economic times?” was the first question that he asked.
Morris suggested that it may be better “to just pay for legal services as needed, like other neighboring counties on the Northern Neck.”
Thomas Bondurant currently holds the position of County Attorney in Westmoreland. He owns a weekend home in neighboring Northumberland County and practices law in the Richmond area, traveling to Montross to attend the monthly Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings.
According to information gathered by some members of the Westmoreland County Citizens’ Association, Westmoreland County paid Bondurant just under $60,000 for the work he did for the local government between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008.
According to the group’s research, his salary was $36,000.00 and additional work performed at the local government’s request brought his earnings in that period to $53,811.00.
When the County Attorney attended an LGA Conference that cost local taxpayers $1,255.00 and his running total climbed to $55,066.00. The county’s contribution of $4,812.00 for the part-timer’s hospitalization insurance coverage raised the total to $59,878.00.
The employment contract that the county government executed with attorney Thomas Ogburn Bondurant, Jr. on March 22, 2005 mirrors language contained in contracts made with past county attorneys Gordon Wilkins and Richard Stuart in March and December of 2003.
The 2003 and 2005 contracts state that the County Attorney “will represent the county in certain legal matters as counsel, to-wit: Provide legal advice to the Board of Supervisors, Industrial Development Authority, Planning Commission, and the County Administrator, together with county agencies and departments, and as authorized by the Board of Supervisors or County Administrator, as long as ethically appropriate.
“[The County] Attorney will also associate other counsel in matters requiring specialized advice, upon authorization by the County Administrator.
“[The County] Attorney will not be representing [the] County in the following matters: as Attorney for Social Services,” which instead engages Valerie Mayo as its attorney of record.
According to the contract, the County Attorney is paid “a fixed fee of $36,000.00 per fiscal year.”
The contract then states that the County Attorney is compensated “on an hourly basis at the rate of $90.00 an hour for all trial work in the General District Courts, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Circuit Court, and any other courts in Virginia, or elsewhere, including trial preparation, drafting of pleadings or any other work related to litigation or court orders or appearances.”
The County Attorney is additionally compensated at the rate of $90.00 per hour for “all work related to utility systems, water, sewer, or other, which are owned by or participated in by the County, including, but not limited to, title work, drafting of easements, documents, agreements or any other papers, meeting attendances which are separately designated from regular or special Board of Supervisors business meetings, and any other work related to utility systems.”
“Mr. Bondurant will really earn a lot of money if the Phase 2 Washington District sewer project goes through next year,” an Association member commented when the reporter initially reviewed the copy of the employment contract that the Association had obtained.
The same payment of $90.00 per how will be allocated to Bondurant as compensation for “all work related to County bond issues, including preparation of County Attorney opinions, coordination with bond counsel, and any other matters related to bond issue financing for the County of County-related projects.”
The “County will further pay for [the County] Attorney’s participation in the County health plan,” a provision believed to cost local taxpayers the previously noted $400.00 per month.
The contract states that the “County agrees to reimburse [its County] Attorney for all expenses for travel, conferences and conference fees, meals, court reporters, transcripts, court costs, private investigators, expert witnesses, medical examinations, printing, and any other expenses arising out of said representation by [County] Attorney, subject to annual appropriation, and budget approval.
“Reimbursement for expenses shall be due at the time [the County] Attorney incurs such expense [and] monthly itemized statements of all expenses will be provided to [the] County.
“[The County] Attorney shall bill the County on an annual or monthly basis for accrued hourly fees and expenses not yet paid, if any.
“In all respects, the County Attorney shall serve at the pleasure of the Board of Supervisors.

Betsy Ficklin

 

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