Philadelphia won’t be entering into a contract to create an Office of Conflict Counsel right away after all.
Mayor Michael Nutter’s press secretary, Mark McDonald, said in an email that the apparent winning bidder did not have the same name at the start of the process as at the end, so the contract can’t be issued legally.
The City Code requires that the name of the entity submitting the bid, which is entered into the municipal eContract Philly system, to have the same name as the entity with whom the city contracts.
Philadelphia attorney Daniel-Paul Alva’s bid appeared to be the winner to start a new Office of Conflict Counsel in Philadelphia. However, Alva and his former partner on the project, Scott DiClaudio, bid for the conflict-counsel work as Alva & Associates LLC. DiClaudio left the project following a flap over controversial social-media postings he made.
The city said in a statement that the name of Alva’s firm is the Law Offices of Daniel P. Alva. The difference in the two names has stopped the contract process for now.
“In no way does this reflect on the proposal to establish a Conflict Counsel Office,” McDonald wrote. “The administration is committed to carrying this out. Nor does it reflect on the quality of the proposal from Mr. Alva. But the rules are clear.”
All of this means the city will have to begin the bid process again from scratch. Alva wrote in an email that he will resubmit his bid and “hopefully will be chosen again.”
The city announced on Dec. 31 its intention to contract with Alva & Associates, which would create a for-profit law firm to represent criminal defendants and family-court defendants when the Defender Association of Philadelphia, Community Legal Services or the Support Center for Child Advocates is already representing another person in the case. The new firm was to handle the first appointments in criminal cases and juvenile-delinquent cases in which the Defender Association has a conflict, and to represent the primary caregiver in every dependency case, Alva said in an interview earlier this month. The firm, which bid $9.5 million, would have taken all new appointments starting March 1.
The plan has generated opposition from many quarters, including Councilman Dennis O’Brien. O’Brien’s director of legislation and policy, Miriam E. Enriquez, said in an interview that her office was pleased the process is starting over and that it hoped the next iteration of conflict-counsel representation makes “sure the constitutional rights of the indigent are preserved and protected.”
Alva said he didn’t plan to make a profit from city tax dollars but from fees earned by referring clients in other types of matters. In addition to Alva & Associates, there were four other bidders for the contract in the first round: Ahmad & Zaffarese & Smyler, AskPhillyLawyer.com, Montoya Shaffer and Sokolow & Associates, according to the city’s notice.
This story was originally reported on our blog, Naked City.
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