Kennett Township residents are likely aghast at the bill for BlankRome's legal services associated with the "Ethics Review" released by Kennett Township on April 4th. The review was prompted by the 80-page Ethics Complaint filed by Kennett Township resident Peter Doehring. At the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors (KT BoS) meeting on April 6th, Township officials acknowledged that BlankRome had billed over $127K through the end of February alone.
Right to Know requests filed by OpenKennett have uncovered detailed legal billing records for December 2021 and January 2022 related to the December 20 special press release and subsequent ethics review. These records indicate that the total cost of the press releases and review will be even higher - at least $140K and climbing. The billing record reveals just how quickly the costs of the Ethics Review pushed by Kennett Township Supervisors Leff and Hoffman began to pile up.
The detailed record also offers new insights into the nature of the review centered on conflicts of interest for Kennett Township Manager Eden Ratliff.
Most of the expenses incurred centered on BlankRome’s work on the Ethic’s review. Assuming that initial negotiations for the review began on December 27, their bill to date for the review is over $104K
BlankRome incurred significant expenses prior to beginning their review this period that can be broken down into two phases. The initial review of the Ethics Complaint cost over $9K between December 6-13. Consultation surrounding the Kennett Township special press release on December 20 cost almost $14K between December 14-23. The full costs of this press release seeking to exonerate Ratliff and discredit Doehring are unknown, because the two public relations consultants (Carl Francis and Bruce Mowdrey) have apparently yet to bill (?) the Township for their work. The extent of BlankRome’s involvement in the special press release raises new questions about the independence of the subsequent review
Though redacted, the billing record reveals the Kennett Township supervisor Richard Leff appears to have orchestrated all activities. This is not surprising given his role as Chair of the KT-BoS, and may simply reflect his dedication to defending Ratliff. Given Hoffman's vigorous defense of Ratliff and attacks on Doehring throughout this process, we would expect her to have fully supported Leff in his campaign to exonerate Ratliff.
The billing record also reveals Ratliff’s extensive involvement in the days surrounding the special press statement that sought to exonerate him.
The billing record for Township Solicitors Kilkenny suggests that Kennett Township’s campaign to delay or deny OpenKennett’s Right to Know requests has cost over $14K in January and February.
The exorbitant costs of BlankRome’s work results from their $625 “blended” hourly rate, which BlankRome was “pleased to offer” in their 7 page proposal to the KT BoS on December 27, 2021. There were many instances in which at least 2 BlankRome attorneys worked at the same time on the same issues or consulted with one another, resulting in an eye-popping hourly rate of $1350.
Blank Rome attorneys wasted no time, racking up over $7K in fees on the first day after the contract was approved by the KT BoS.