Letter to the Editor: Outside counsel and eminent domain

Dear Editor,

It has been reported that Delaware County Attorney Porter Kirkwood, currently running for Family Court Judge, stated “that Delaware County uses outside counsel, but denied that it happens whenever the county is sued. Instead, he said, outside attorneys are brought in for specialized work, such as contract negotiations.” I believe this statement was at best misleading; at worst, blatantly false.

In connection with a property dispute I am having with Delaware County, it came to my attention that in fact the County did use outside counsel for a routine real estate transaction – the purchase of approximately five acres of unimproved vacant land from a private landowner. There were no title issues, no mortgages involved – in short, a routine deal (compared with the fact that the County’s attorneys are handling in-house a vast number of much more complicated post-Irene FEMA deals.) Not only did the county outsource the transaction to high-priced attorneys from another county, but they bungled the deal by inducing the town of Middletown into approving the subdivision of a parcel of land which was land- locked and had no right-of-way or access, an egregious oversight. Now, to mask their costly error, they are threatening the use of eminent domain to provide what the private land seller could not – forced access across the lands of my neighbors and me on Cole Hill in Margaretville.

In any event, this purchase by the County was effectuated under the watch of Porter Kirkwood’s term as County Attorney. Thus, he knew or should have known that this was incorrect, at the time he made the statement. If that is the type of lack of attention to detail and reckless expenditure of County funds that he has exercised, I do not think he should be elected Family Court Judge.

Rudd Hubbell