Cumberland County government is bucking a trend of cutting employees and departments in the face of tough economic times.

But in this case, county officials say the move could actually save taxpayers some money.

The Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders will vote on Nov. 27 on whether to create a full-time legal department. The action is actually the second reading of an ordinance introduced last month, and will be accompanied by a public hearing.

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The board vote 7-0 last month to introduce the ordinance, and it is likely the legislation will also be approved unanimously on Nov. 27.

While Brendan Kavanagh currently serves as the county’s counsel, most of county government’s legal work is farmed out to different attorney. Kavanagh term as county counsel ends at the end of the month.

Officials said the county spends about $900,000 annually in legal expenses. They said they think that figure can be educed by as much as $200,000 by handling the work in-house, even though it means hiring staff. They warned that figure could vary, depending on the type and amount of legal work the county faces each year.

According to the ordinance, the county freeholder director and administrator will oversee the new legal department.

The county counsel will serve as director of the new legal department. The county counsel will be appointed by a vote of the freeholder board. The ordinance sets no salary for the county counsel.

The ordinance allows the freeholders to appoint additional staff to the legal department as needed.

The county’s legal department may still seek out attorneys not connected with the new department, depending on the work load and whether some of that work calls for specialized legal help.


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