County Attorney Kevin Kelly has been lobbying local media to get behind his plan to sue a pharmaceutical firm that makes opioids. Hey, it’s a “no-brainer” right? Everybody hates opioids!
Kelly’s plan is to have Sussex County become the newest of the nearly 2,000 lawsuits currently working through the civil litigation process in a number of states. Yes, he is coming a little late to the game.
In the New Jersey Herald, Kelly attempted to downplay the cost to property taxpayers of bringing such a lawsuit. On Sunday he told the Herald that “there would be some costs related to gathering facts and data on how the opioid epidemic has affected county residents.” In other words… another study.
Leave aside the fact that the average cost for gathering the necessary dispositions and expert testimony to show damages in such a case is somewhere north of $250,000 – didn’t county government recently pay for a $500,000 study in order to bring a legal action against those responsible for the solar scam that will cost Sussex County property taxpayers dearly for more than a decade? And didn’t they top that off with an additional $100,000 in further studies and legal work?
Then, when it came time to actually do something about it… where was Kevin Kelly? There was a lot of talk about not wanting to “throw good money after bad” and about “moving on”. Where was the justice? Where was the pay back for taxpayers?
Of course, a few well-connected lawyers pocketed $600,000 or so in taxpayers’ money – on top of the close to $40 million already squandered by the solar scam itself. When the Boxer Report came out just 18 months ago, the Herald cquoted the lawyer who got paid $500,000 to write it, reporting that “Boxer indicated on Wednesday night that there ‘are litigation options ’which ‘could lead to financial recovery’ should the freeholders intend to pursue them.” That advice cost taxpayers half a million dollars… so what happened?
Well, the old Freeholder Board developed a bad case of cold feet and didn’t move forward. Now the new Freeholder Board (made up of three members of the old Board and two newly elected members) is being told by County Attorney Kevin Kelly that it should pursue a brand new lawsuit against a totally different target. Forget solar, now it is opioids.
Except for one little problem. The company Kelly wants to sue – Purdue Pharma – is about to declare bankruptcy, which will make all those lawsuits somewhat redundant. Except for the legal fees they generate. Meanwhile, the company behind the solar scam – Sunlight General – is still chugging along and in business, not bankrupt, and fat with assets.
The pointless cost of taking a bankrupt company to court is what caused the State of New Jersey to pass up the opportunity to bring its own lawsuit against Purdue Pharma. That’s also the reason why Warren County’s freeholders – after carefully examining the costs versus the possible returns – passed on suing Purdue Pharma. Like Sussex County, they would have loved to take a bat to the opioid manufacturers – but not if it meant screwing the folks who pay property taxes. In such a case, the only people left smiling would be the lawyers.
Before going down the road of another “sure thing” or “win-win” or “no-brainer” as these things are inevitable described, let’s remember what happened the last time county insiders sold us a “sure thing” (with the help of media cheerleaders). We will be paying for that “sure thing” for the next decade or more… in artificially higher property taxes.
Back during that last “sure thing” – when everyone was reading about how great solar energy would be for Sussex County – an attorney who was representing a solar developer was quoted in the New Jersey Herald saying: “My feeling is that we can expect to see a lot more installations going up over the next year. This is the wave of the future, no question."
That lawyer’s name was Kevin Kelly.