The county commissioners have paid nearly $100,000 for legal defense in their ongoing dispute with the district attorney over whether they have the authority to examine the top prosecutor’s spending and personnel decisions.
The commissioners have paid the law firm of Stevens & Lee $97,766, in taxpayer money to date, according to records obtained by ABC 27, a partner with LNP and LancasterOnline. LNP has previously reported that the board is paying the firm up to $235 an hour for representation in the case, which is scheduled for argument next week in the Commonwealth Court.
The cost to taxpayers for District Attorney Craig Stedman’s legal team is not yet clear. His office has not yet submitted a bill to Kleinbard LLC, and the commissioners have vowed to block Stedman from using taxpayer funds. A representative of the firm could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Stedman, who is elected by voters, is seeking to block the commissioners from what he has described as an attempt to “encroach upon the independent powers” of his office. He has accused Commissioners Josh Parsons, Dennis Stuckey and Craig Lehman of overstepping their legal authority by trying to review his office’s use of drug forfeiture proceeds, including his lease of a 2016 Toyota Highlander using more than $21,000 of that money.
The commissioners have called Stedman’s action a “frivolous” attempt to “silence all who dare to express legitimate concerns about his questionable decision making.” The commissioners have claimed the lease should have been subject to their approval.
A copy of the lease, provided to LNP by the district attorney's office last week following a request under the Right to Know Law, confirmed the vehicle was obtained in the county's name.