By Leah Sander
WARSAW — Kosciusko County Council is mulling how much to pay County Attorney Ed Ormsby for legal services for 2022.
The issue came up at its special budget review meeting on Thursday, Aug. 26.
The county budgeted $58,000 for legal services in 2021 but the commissioners are asking to increase that to $131,000, which would be roughly $73,000 more.
Council took the commissioners’ recommendation last week under advisement but did not act on it even after approving other wage issues.
Council President Ernie Wiggins told InkFreeNews Monday that the council wants to look at the specifics of Ormsby’s contract before making a decision.
“Ed’s hourly rate and contract are both the same as Chad’s,” explained Kosciusko County Commissioner Brad Jackson to InkFreeNews, referring to Ormsby’s predecessor Chad Miner.
Ormsby is in his first year as county attorney, having replaced Miner last year when Miner was elected judge.
He pointed out that Miner did some work for the county off the clock.
“We are discovering that Chad was even kinder than we thought,” said Jackson. “It appears that he did a decent amount of work at no charge.”
Jackson also said that Ormsby’s work reviewing ordinances took up time, adding to him meriting some extra pay.
Ormsby cited the same two arguments as Jackson in an email to the county commissioners and County Administrator Marsha McSherry. It was sent in June as part of the budget process. The full email may be found below.
“Through May 2021, I have 317.30 hours of billable time beyond the fixed-price contractual services,” he said. “There have been 21 weeks during that time, so I have been averaging 15.11 billable hours per week. During the transition of the County Attorney job from Chad to me, Chad’s estimate of total hours per week was 10-15. So the current billable hours experience has been higher than that estimate.”
Other arguments Ormsby mentioned in the email for his larger workload include communications with state legislators regarding matters pertinent to the county during this recent legislative session as well as work deemed as special projects largely pertaining to constitutional rights.
That includes work on making the county a “Constitutional Sanctuary County,” a “2nd Amendment Sanctuary County,” and other work involving COVID-19 vaccine passports, COVID-19 and looking into grant monies available to the county.
“My representation style may be a bit more proactive than past services,” Ormsby said in the letter.
On Monday, Kosciusko County Democratic Chair Vicki Morton sent a letter to the council and local media questioning the request.
She asked the council to reject the legal services’ budget increase for 2022.
“I encourage you to take a more active role in reviewing and approving the ‘special projects’ used as justification for increased attorney fees,” she said.
“Recent ‘special projects’ have been a waste of county funds and have made our county less attractive to business,” she added, referring to commissioners’ Constitutional Sanctuary County and Second Amendment Sanctuary County declarations.
She also asks the county “to publish an itemized accounting of the expenditure of public funds for each of these ‘special projects.'”
“I encourage the County Council to require that the Commissioners reimburse the county for any funds spent on ‘special projects’ that are clearly politically motivated and serve no purpose under their statutory authority. The County Council should require that the Board obtain their approval before the expenditure of county funds on legal fees for future ‘special projects,'” she said.
The council’s next regular meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, at the Kosciusko County Courthouse’s Old Courtroom.