WOODSTOCK — Late last week, attorneys presented a bill to the Circuit Court that taxpayers may end up paying after a failed petition to remove Strasburg Mayor Richard Orndorff Jr. from office was halted earlier this month.
Court documents show Phillip S. Griffin II, Orndorff’s attorney, has billed his client $15,142 between Sept. 16 and Nov. 15, including $577 in expenses for traveling to Charlottesville to research his defense.
Any fees Orndorff accrues in this case moving forward will be determined based on Griffin’s hourly rate of $350, according to court documents.
Griffin also represents Orndorff in two other matters — a DUI charge from an incident during this year’s Mayfest and in a fraud case he was indicted on last month.
Judge Alexander Iden, who took over hearing the petition case after Judge Kevin Black recused himself last month, granted a request by Amanda Wiseley, the commonwealth’s attorney representing petitioners, to non-suit the case after several problems were found with the document.
Griffin agreed with the motion to stop the petition but argued that his client should not be left with the responsibility of paying his attorney fees. Iden gave Griffin and Wiseley until Nov. 15 to file a bill and arguments for why taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay it.
Wiseley has until the end of the month to file any objections to Griffin’s bill.
At their meeting on Nov. 12, Strasburg Town Council members voted to “take appropriate action to intervene” in the arguments over who should pay the mayor’s legal bills, according to court documents.
Griffin spoke at the Nov. 12 meeting, defending his client and billing Orndorff $700 for “review[ing] documents, meet[ing] with client, attending[ing] Strasburg Town Council meeting,” according to court documents.
Griffin filed a demurrer, arguing the town should not be allowed to intervene and object to his motion to have residents pay for Orndorff’s legal fees.
Among Griffin's arguments, he wrote that because the town is not petitioning to join proceedings as either a plaintiff or defendant but rather as an “intervenor,” it does not have the right to participate.
“Further, the Town did not appear on behalf of the defendant Orndorff nor did the Town appear as a plaintiff,” Griffin wrote. “The Town cannot become an intervenor when it is neither ‘fish nor fowl’, neither plaintiff nor defendant.”
Griffin said he thought Wiseley may include the petition from the town to join the suit as an intervenor in her objections to the bill. But, he argued, that Virginia’s code requires the commonwealth's attorney’s office to represent the petitioners in all matters of the case.
The final bill will be handed down by Judge Iden in December after Wiseley has had time to offer the commonwealth’s objections.
Who will be left with the bill is unclear, Griffin said. The statute ensures that the individual petitioners will not be charged for attorney fees but that Judge Iden has the leeway to either dismiss Griffin’s motion and force Orndorff to pay them or tell the commonwealth's attorney’s office it is responsible. If that office is responsible, Griffin said, it will determine who pays the bill — either the town of Strasburg or Shenandoah County.