Dss Legal Fees Climb

September 26, 1990

A bigger load of foster-care cases and other lawsuits this year has forced the Carroll County Department of Social Services to ask the state and county for help in paying legal costs.

The department had been projecting a deficit of $75,000 in legal fees for the 1990-1991 fiscal year ending next June 30, but will get somemoney from the state Department of Human Resources to offset that, said M.

Alexander Jones, director of the local DSS office on Distillery Drive.

Jones told the board of directors yesterday that his office has a budget of $46,750 for legal expenses, but is already spending at a rate of $10,000 a month.

He said the state determines the DSS legal budget based on what it spent two years prior -- $44,000. Expenses started going up in the 1989-1990 year, to $89,000, and Jones is projecting $120,000 this year.

He said the Department of Human Resources has assured him he will get some money but hasn't said how much. He said with state cuts in the department, money is tight and any money he gets extra may have to come out of his or another budget for staff.

Carroll DSS uses the local law firm of Miller and McDonald. Jones said the department needs to go to court to approve any placement of a child in foster care, and again before the child can go back home.

"Also, there were a few people that really cost us additional money for frivolous and unnecessary causes," Jones said, but declined to elaborate until the board met later in a closed session.

In a case that has been made public, the DSS has gone to court to protest a request by Elliott Burgher of Westminster for the name of a person who apparently falsely reported him to the department for abusing his elderly mother. Burgher was later cleared, but is in court trying to find out whether the informant acted maliciously, and to make sure his name is cleared on all state and county records. That case is still pending before Circuit Court Judge Raymond Beck.

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