Commission replaces juvenile public defenders
In a rather abbreviated meeting on Wednesday, March 17, the Carbon County Commissioners opened a few sealed bids, okayed washers and dryers for the new senior center and dealt with some minor parlimentary issues.
Near the end of the conclave, however, item 12 - to be exact - was the question of awarding a public defender contract for juvenile court, which was given to the Chiara & Torgerson law office in Price by a 2-1 decision.
Here is some brief background on the matter. The firm that currently held the contract, according to Commissioner John Jones, wrote a letter recently asking for a raise in its monthly stipend from $3,500 to $6,500.
"It wasn't so much the demand for a payment hike that bothered me," Jones said. "It was the ultimatum at the end, which basically told us they would quit if we did not meet this offer."
The commission then sent out word that bids would now be accepted for the contract. Several firms took advantage of the opportunity, as did the original group, and, perhaps chastied a bit, returned an offer of $3,900, $2,600 lower than its earler demand and, as it turned out, $600 lower than the next bid - from the Chiara & Torgerson group.
Lawyers from both firms spoke at the meeting, the current contract holders pleading their case and saying the letter was "never intended to be (or sound like) an ultimatum."
Representatives of another competing firm addied that they would even be willing to extend the contract longer from its tradional two-year time period to compensate for bid descrepancy, but the commission did not comment.
And while Commissioner Bill Krompel was willing to award the contract back to the original firm, Jones and Commissioner Mike Milovich weren't as forgiving.
"I consider that letter, especially that last paragragh, to be a slap in the face - not just mine - but the entire commission," Jones said. "If they had just come to us and asked for the raise, things might have gone differently."
He also explained that the county has a right to turn down lower bids to accept higher ones, under the circumstances. I also believe they (Torgerson) explained their ability toovercome any conflicts satisfactorily.
When asked to comment about such "conflicts," however, a spokesman for Chiara & Torgerson denied there were any.
"I understand the firm's desire to want fair compensation," Jones added. "That's not the issue. Sending us a letter that I considered to be a slap in the face turned the tide for me. I don't do business that way. If we would have accepted the pay hike, what next? We'd be held hostage by every entity in the county."