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Ex-solicitor to be paid in new post

| Thursday, Dec. 9, 2004

August C. Damian apparently still will collect checks from the municipality -- not as its solicitor, but as special bond counsel on a $25 million debt refinancing plan.

James Webster of the of Springer Bush & Perry, serving as bond counsel for the Pennsylvania Finance Authority on the deal, said the amounts to be paid Damian and acting Solicitor Bonnie Brimmeier have yet to be determined.

Damian previously has been paid a flat fee of $25,000 as bond co-counsel.

Proceeds from the $25 million refinancing package will be used to pay off debt service owed Dec. 1 and to replenish funds depleted as the result of tax bills not being sent because of a nearly yearlong delay in approving a 2004 budget.

Brimmeier said Damian was intimately involved in the early stages of the bond issue and was "gracious enough to work with us" on closing the deal.

"It made all the sense in the world for things to work out as they did, as opposed to trying to reinvent the wheel," Brimmeier said. "Instead of doing things out of spite, it was a case of people sitting down at the table, willing to let bygones be bygones."

Damian will be paid when bonds tied to the refinancing package are issued at the end of December and in January, Brimmeier said.

Damian sued Penn Hills shortly after Mayor Anthony DeLuca Jr. took office and announced the longtime solicitor had effectively resigned the post for not attending meetings and not doing legal work DeLuca had requested.

In June, council voted 3-2 to pay Damian a $59,000 settlement that included legal work Damian had performed on an "as-need" basis until an acting solicitor was appointed. Damian also received about $17,000 for work done in January.

Damian could not be reached for comment.

On an $8.3 million refinancing package in early 2001, Damian received $75,000 -- $50,000 as municipal solicitor and $25,000 as bond co-counsel. In September 2000, Damian received $65,000 -- $25,000 as co-counsel and $40,000 as solicitor -- for his work on a plan to refinance the municipality's $99 million sewer bond debt.

DeLuca said he thinks Damian's work on the latest bond issue will be minimal and comes at the behest of the municipality's bond broker, Commonwealth Securities.

"Mr. Damian was involved because of his knowledge of bond issues in Penn Hills," Commonwealth Securities President Henry Fisher said.

Deputy Mayor Yvonne Lamanna, who abstained from a vote on the bond issue legislation that referred to Damian, said the circumstances gave her the impression that everything had been "pre-rehearsed" before the meeting.

"Why do we need a special bond counsel, and how much money are all of these people going to make?" Lamanna asked.

Acting Manager James Schaffer said he was not informed of any of the intricacies of the deal.

Former Penn Hills mayor and Damian foe Phyllis Kernick said that some of the line item expenses in Damian's legal invoices to the municipality for 2003 and 2004 mentioned a potential bond issue.

"If Damian knew he was going to get paid once the bonds were issued, then he should not have been charging the municipality along the way," Kernick said.

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