Has Hopatcong Borough Attorney John Ursin violated the professional conduct rule by representing a civilian in court and billing the Borough of Hopatcong?
The first case of violation goes back to 2016 where a two-year long investigation resulted with Ursin being accused of DEFRAUDING SUSSEX BOROUGH based upon his duo representation of the Sussex Inn & Sussex Borough.
The five-count complaint, accused Ursin of violating the STATE OF NEW JERSEY'S PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT RULES by failing to disclose to the borough that he was simultaneously representing both the Sussex Inn and Sussex Borough at the same time. This is considered a conflict of interest.
New Findings by Hopatcong Lake Regional News
Through Open Public Records Act (OPRA), Hopatcong Lake Regional News identified that Ursin represented a local civilian in Small Claims Court. Ursin proceeded in his representation without approval from the Council, and he billed the Borough of Hopatcong for all associated legal fees.
His representation of a local civilian also triggered a second lawsuit, as the plaintiff David Hughes sued the past Mayor Sylvia Petillo for Abuse of Office, consequently stemming from Attorney John Ursin’s support of a private civilian using Hopatcong Borough taxpayer funds.
How it Started:
Hopatcong’s current Recreation Coordinator Catherine Millian, who was a civilian in 2015 gave a picture to Bob & Perry’s Diner in Hopatcong, for which she had no ownership. The lawful owner David Hughes sued Millian in court for copyright infringement.
This is where Hopatcong Borough Attorney Ursin represented Millian in court. According to documents obtained through OPRA, Ursin followed through with his representation of Millian even after learning that she was a Civilian at the time.
How One Lawsuit turned into Two:
Based upon the Hopatcong Borough’s official legal representation of a Civilian in small claims court, the plaintiff “David Hughes” subsequently SUED THE PAST MAYOR, SYLVIA PETILLO for abuse of office and interfering in another lawsuit. This second suit once again further drained taxpayer’s dollars, as Ursin and his firm now needed to represent the Mayor in this legal matter.
Borough Attorney Responsibilities Include:
- Legal representation of the Borough and Council
- Review of all contracts and legal matters
- Support of the Borough in all other legal matters
Normally, Borough Attorneys do not provide legal services and/or representation to private citizens. Furthermore, the council must approve areas where the Borough Attorney engages in legal matters using tax payer’s money.
Verifiable Documents indicating John Ursin Represented a Private Citizen with TAX PAYER’S MONEY.
Based upon the several OPRA’ed documents for closed-door Executive Council meetings, the minutes include Ursin’s update of the council as follows:
SEPTEMBER 21, 2016 VIEW THE FULL MINUTES: “David Hughes, a resident in town, sued Cathy Millian, Recreation Coordinator, over copyright issues. Over a picture she gave to the owner of the Bob and Perry’s (a diner in town). At the time, she was not an employee but a volunteer for the Recreation Commission. Mr. Ursin stated that they will file a motion to dismiss since copyright issues are not settled in Small Claims Court.”
OCTOBER 5, 2016: 6:30 PM VIEW THE FULL MINUTES: “Councilwoman Galate asked Mr. Ursin why he was representing Cathy Millian in Small Claims Court and who gave him the permission to do so. Mr. Ursin explained that in a small claims matter there is a very short window to respond and he assumed that it was in her capacity as the Recreation Coordinator that she was being sued. When he found out that it was prior to her hiring, he discussed with the Mayor and discovered that while Ms. Millian was a volunteer on the Recreation Commission, the Mayor gave Ms., Millian the picture that she had from the Lake Hopatcong Foundation. MS, Millian then gave it to the owners of Bob and Perry’s Diner, where she worked. Councilwoman Galate reiterated her position that she is not comfortable with Mr. Ursin representing her as a private citizen and using tax payer money to do so. Councilman Young stated that Ms. Millian was never given any direction from the Recreation Commission to give them the picture. Mr. Ursin stated that he felt it was in the town’s best interest to represent her and that in small issues he is directed by the Mayor to handle issues without Council approval. He stated that he will now be filing a motion to dismiss the case.”
Hopatcong Lake Regional News is turning over our investigation to the appropriate State Officials. They will proceed accordingly.
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