Gobel plans to resign as West Mifflin Area solicitor
West Mifflin Area School District Solicitor George Gobel said he plans to resign next month after the school board failed to fire him at Monday's special meeting.
“I expressed to several of you personally that it was my intention, following this meeting, to submit a letter of resignation effective at the conclusion of the August meeting,” Gobel said. “This whole issue is somewhat of a surprise to me. I don't think it needed to be done. It's still my intention (to resign) ... I don't know why this is on the agenda tonight because it's not my intention to stay.”
The motion to terminate Gobel's services failed by a 4-4 vote. School directors in favor of keeping Gobel as solicitor were Phil Shar, Erin O'Leary White, Ron Rubinsak and Gina Caito. Those opposed were board president Judy Andzelik, vice president Harry Fast III, Richard Crux and Daniel McDonald. School director Michael Price was absent.
Andzelik said Gobel did not inform her or Superintendent Daniel Castagna about his intentions to resign.
Shar and Rubinsak praised Gobel's service with real estate tax appeals and other legal matters.
“Every bit of litigation he's done for us has turned out great,” Shar said.
“I've been privileged to be in other types of negotiations with different lawyers,” Rubinsak said. “Mr. Gobel stood tall as any of those people in their negotiations. He's very good and knows all his numbers and is right on all the time ... He saved us a lot of money.”
Gobel was hired in September 2012. He replaced Maiello Brungo & Maiello, who replaced Jack Cambest as solicitor in April 2012.
Andzelik said she wanted to remove Gobel because of cost. She did not have any figures available, but said Gobel cost the district “a lot.”
Gobel said he charged a $750 monthly retainer, a rate of $95 an hour for ordinary business and $105 for litigation. He said his rates were the same as the previous solicitor.
Shar said Andzelik's reasoning did not make sense, claiming Gobel was “a bargain” with an average invoice of $6,288 for the past six months.
Gobel explained after the meeting that his intentions to resign were based on lack of communication and politics.
“I have no communication with the board president,” Gobel said. “I give legal advice. She ignores it.”
Gobel said Andzelik called him on Monday prior to the meeting and informed him he would be replaced.
He said Andzelik has a problem with him being friends with Shar, and the attempted termination had nothing to do with job performance.
“Every case that I've handled for them in court I have won,” Gobel said. “There's not one instance where I've tainted a legal opinion for Phil Shar.”
Attorney Matthew Racunas was listed on the agenda to be approved as Gobel's replacement.
Shar said that was a last-minute change because there was another solicitor on the agenda as of Monday afternoon, with a $10,000-a-month flat fee.
No fee for Racunas was listed. Racunas declined to comment on the matter.
Racunas is a law partner of attorney Patricia McGrail. Their firm serves Elizabeth Forward School District and 20 municipal entities including Port Vue and Elizabeth.
Gobel is solicitor for South Allegheny School District, Dravosburg, Liberty and the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport.
Gobel said he will assist whomever the board decides to replace him with.
The board voted 6-2 to adopt a resolution and authorize an agreement with the Wilson Group and US Bank Equipment Finance Co. Shar and Rubinsak opposed the five-year printer contract.
Shar said Wilson Group was a higher bidder than another company.
Andzelik said Wilson Group will provide better service, and the contract includes other features such as an approximate $240,000 buyout of the current contract with Ford Business Machines, and establishment of a $2,000 scholarship.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.