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Files to be given back

| Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005

A federal judge Wednesday ordered Aleppo's former solicitor to turn over township documents he has been holding until he is paid.

U.S. District Court Judge Arthur J. Schwab also ordered Bernard Rubb, who was fired as Aleppo solicitor last week, to remove himself as lawyer for two commissioners.

The interests of the public and the township are more important than Rubb's fees, Schwab wrote in ordering the lawyer to turn over all Aleppo files relating to Commissioner Carolyn Smith. Schwab ruled in July that Rubb and the other four commissioners -- Linda Talmon, Oliver Poppenberg, Rick Starr and Gloria Vish -- illegally froze Smith out of township business by holding secret meetings and forcing him to file right-to-know requests to obtain township records readily available to other officials.

Rubb is trying to stall the judicial process, Schwab wrote.

Aleppo's interim solicitor, Gianni Floro, said Rubb agreed to turn over all township legal records.

"I'm happy that I will have the records that will help me represent the township," Floro said. "I still hold out hope that the parties can resolve this out of court. Another dime should not be spent on this litigation."

A police arbitration hearing Monday was postponed because Floro had no records.

Aleppo taxpayers have shelled out $277,074 in legal fees for defending the township in the Smith case this year. In addition, Schwab ordered the township to pay $152,359 for Smith's legal fees. Those totals do not include $47,000 for other legal work.

Last year, Rubb billed the township $120,000, four times the budgeted amount. None of that was related to the Smith case.

Aleppo, population 1,039, has a $1 million budget. Commissioners eliminated the police force last year to save money.

Rubb did not return calls for comment. In court documents filed yesterday, he said there is no basis for turning over township files and that he believes the township will not pay him about $44,000 he is owed for work in July and August.

"This seems to be moving in the right direction," Smith said. "But I am confused about who Mr. Rubb represents and who he thinks will pay him."

In yesterday's ruling, Schwab said Rubb's continued involvement raises conflict-of-interest questions.

"Defendant Rubb appears to be wear multiple hats in this case, including those of a lawyer, party defendant, testifying witness ... and now as an adversary to some of the commissioners but still (apparently, but it is not clear) representing some of the commissioners," Schwab wrote. "Defendant Rubb appears to be is walking a very thin line, and the possibility of multiple conflicts has blossomed into a distinct probability."

Schwab also refused to delay a Sept. 12 hearing on whether the four commissioners and Rubb should be held in contempt of court. Smith's lawyers requested the hearing after the other four commissioners filed an Allegheny County Court lawsuit against Smith, accusing her of trying to obtain confidential tax records.

Schwab said that if Smith proves her case, the four commissioners and Rubb may have flouted his order to include her in township business.

Rubb has said that he filed the county court lawsuit without a formal vote, although the four commissioners approved the action in separate phone calls.

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