Wolf says he'll issue executive order banning no-bid state contracts with private lawyers

IndustriesAssociated Press

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf plans to ban no-bid contracts with private law firms and make the hiring of outside counsel by state agencies more transparent, his spokesman said Wednesday.

The Democrat will issue an executive order implementing the new policies after he takes office on Jan. 20, said the spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan.

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More than 500 lawyers are on the state payroll. They include 480 employed by the governor's Office of General Counsel to handle day-to-day legal affairs in more than 30 departments and agencies, and 181 in the state attorney general's office, which enforces state laws.

"If we can use lawyers employed by the state first, that saves taxpayers' money," Sheridan said.

Wolf promised during his campaign that he would ban what he called "crony contracts" with outside law firms.

In addition to halting no-bid contracts, Wolf said he will impose new competitive bidding requirements requiring the Office of General Counsel to issue written justification for hiring outside lawyers. That includes providing evidence that the office lacks the legal or financial resources to pursue action on its own and a detailed estimate of the time and labor required.

Requests for proposals, contracts and fee payments will be posted online, and fees paid to outside lawyers will be capped at a level that has not yet been specified.

To ensure that the state can respond to emergencies that require specialized legal expertise, Wolf plans to establish a competitively bid list of pre-approved outside law firms.