Westerlo retains new legal counsel in money-saving maneuver

George McHugh

George McHugh

WESTERLO — Westerlo is swapping out law firms in an effort to save the town money, Deputy Supervisor Matthew Kryzak confirmed for The Enterprise this week. 

Kryzak is leading the town after Supervisor Bill Bichteman’s resignation earlier this year. 

Westerlo currently retains the services of Harris Beach, based in the city of Albany, with attorney Javid Afzali, who lives in Knox, as lead counsel. But as of Sept. 1, legal services will be provided by the Law Offices of George D. McHugh, based in Coeymans.

McHugh is the firm’s sole lawyer and formerly served as general counsel to Carver Companies and as a federal administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration, his firm’s website says. It lists his practice areas as personal injury, traffic tickets, and driving while intoxicated.

He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Harris Beach, with over 200 lawyers in its New York offices, bills itself as “a leading national law firm.”

Kryzak said that the decision to switch came down to cost differences and does not reflect any concerns the town has with the performance of Afzali or his firm. Afzali also advises the town of Berne and has been a controversial figure there. 

“The decision was purely a financial decision to benefit the town,” Kryzak said. 

The cost-savings derive from the fact that McHugh charges a flat rate for services while Harris Beach charges an hourly rate. Kryzak declined to provide the hourly rate, but said the town budgeted for approximately $2,000 in legal fees per month, but, at around six months into the year, it had spent a total of $16,000, approximately 33 percent above projections. 

“This [change] basically allows us to get more mileage out of our attorneys,” Kryzak said. “We can get more use of the attorney without having to worry about going over the budget … With as much legal work as we’ve needed done with the new [comprehensive] plan and all the zoning work that we’re doing right now with the three renewable energy laws — the solar, battery storage, and wind energy — we’ve gone over budget with legal fees on an hourly basis.” 

Kryzak said that the new firm will charge approximately the same as what the town’s budgeted for in legal fees this year — $24,000. 

“This year we had the potential of spending $32,000, which was not in our budget,” Kryzak said. “... By switching to the Law Offices of George D. McHugh we’re guaranteed that we get everything we need without spending more than $24,000.” 

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