Our detailed review of $127K charged by BlankRome to the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors (KT-BoS) for a review of the ethics complaint against Township manager Eden Ratliff revealed $27K of work before the “independent” investigation even started. Why is this a problem? Much of the credibility of the review rested on the assumption that BlankRome brought a fresh, unbiased perspective on the concerns captured in the ethics complaint filed against Ratliff by Township resident Peter Doehring. We have concluded that BlankRome's had a conflict of interest when they proposed an "independent" ethics review, because their earlier involvement suggested that they were far from unbiased, and that such a review would lead only to one conclusion: that Ratliff had broken no laws.
What is the evidence? Right to Know (RTK) requests filed by OpenKennett revealed that BlankRome had in fact participated in reviewing the special press release authored by Supervisors Richard Leff and Whitney Hoffman on December 20. While BlankRome lawyers had denied any such involvement when initially questioned by residents, emails uncovered through RTK requests confirmed BlankRome's role. We believe that BlankRome, in reviewing the press release, had an obligation to indicate any concerns about whether the press release was in fact truthful. We therefore consider the review to also imply some level of approval.
BlankRome’s role in reviewing and likely approving the special press release is especially problematic given other concerns described elsewhere
The press release included many falsehoods and misleading statements.
BlankRome proposed to undertake an independent review after supporting efforts to exonerate Ratliff in the press release they reviewed. Just seven days after approving a press release that appeared to conclude that Ratliff was innocent of all charges, BlankRome lawyers turned around and offered to “perform an internal review regarding the facts and circumstances of alleged conflict-of-interest violations” (p.1) in the engagement letter submitted to Township supervisors.
BlankRome proposed to charge $625/hour to investigate allegations characterized as “irresponsible” in the press release they reviewed just seven days earlier. One week after approving a press release exhorting everyone to be cautious in “believing Peter Doehring’s irresponsible allegations” that represent “unfair and personal attacks”, BlankRome submitted a proposal expressing that they were “pleased to offer” a rate of $625/hour to Kennett Township to review scores of documents (p. 2). Moreover, many of the documents that BlankRomes subsequently relied upon for its review were already identified if not made available by OpenKennett (e.g., in the 80 page Ethics Complaint, assembled and often posted by OpenKennett, or unsuccessfully sought through Right to Know requests).