Luzerne County (Again) Runs Into Legal Fee Roadblock

May 27, 2004 ( - A judge has again denied Luzerne County's request to use pension funds to cover legal expenses, this time due to the County's improper legal documentation filing.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court denied the Luzerne County Retirement Board’s appeal of an injunction barring them from using pension assets to pay legal expenses.   The court based its ruling on the fact that the Retirement Board did not submit a statement of matters complained of on appeal within the proper time period, according to a Citizens’ Voice report.

The statement, a 1925(b) document, outlines the issues and reasons involved in an appeal. Additionally, it provides the trial court judge, Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella in the present case, an opportunity to look at the issues the appellant is raising and submit a written order explaining the decision.

Luzerne County was appealing a February decision in which Ciavarella handed down an injunction barring the County from using public funds to finance litigation associated with a $75 million federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) civil suit (See   Judge: Pension Funds Not For Legal Expenses ) .   In addition to RICO violations, the County’s suit alleges Majority Retirement Board members and 24 former pension consultants or money managers were paid excessive fees and commissions from the pension fund in exchange for donations for political reelection campaigns (See   PA Country Seeks Halt To Pension Funds Used for Legal Fees ).

At the time the injunction was handed down, Justice Ciavarella order the Retirement Board to submit a 1925(b) document on February 17.   The document was not filed until March 3.  

Luzerne County plans to challenge the Commonwealth Court’s ruling.