The Sussex County Commissioners on June 23 appointed a new county attorney, ending its search for a larger and more diverse firm than its previous counsel had offered.
The commissioners unanimously appointed Douglas J. Steinhardt of the law firm Florio Perucci Steinhardt Capelli Tipton & Taylor LLC as part-time counsel for a three-year term that will expire on June 30, 2024.
The commissioners also unanimously authorized a professional services agreement with the new firm for part-time legal services through June 30, 2022, for $240,000.
Commissioner Sylvia Petillo was absent.
“When we say, ‘part time,’ this firm is servicing the county as needed,” Commissioners Director Dawn Fantasia said. “As far as who is being staffed in our offices at any given time, we have very specific hours that there will actually be an attorney present in our offices. However, the attorney is available to us on a 24-hour call basis, as needed.”
Kevin Kelly of Kelly & Ward, LLC, had previously served as county counsel. His firm’s contract with the county expired on June 30.
“Mr. Kelly did complete his contract with fidelity with this board and we thank him for his service,” Fantasia said. “but we feel it will be much more cost-effective to retain this structure that we have in place now.”
Fantasia said Steinhardt’s firm served the county as an ancillary firm for two years.
She also said the new agreement varies widely from the previous agreement with Kelly’s firm, which didn’t cover as many areas. Therefore, work had to be farmed out to other attorneys.
The county solicited bids and received proposals from two larger firms.
“We were specifically looking for a large firm with a very wide and deep bench in order us to access professions to be able to service the county,” Fantasia said. “We wanted to make sure that we always had counsel available to us in any case of crisis. Covid really opened our eyes to the need for solid counsel.”
“Mr. Kelly did complete his contract with fidelity with this board and we thank him for his service but we feel it will be much more cost-effective to retain this structure that we have in place now.” Dawn Fantasia