The solicitor for the Borough of Conshohocken. Michael Savona, was asked to resign from his law firm, Eastburn and Gray, due to his being part of an investigation that led to the eventual federal indictment of a district judge and others in Lower Southampton Township. Savona, who has not been indicted, has been the Borough of Conshohocken’s solicitor since at least 2010, when we started covering local news.
Below is a statement from Eastburn and Gray:
December 6, 2017
Mr. Savona was the subject of an investigation related to the alleged criminal conduct of certain elected officials in a municipality he previously represented. Mr. Savona assured Eastburn and Gray that he was not involved and had not done anything wrong. Unfortunately, Eastburn and Gray believes as of today that this representation is inaccurate.
Eastburn and Gray has requested and received Mr. Savona’s resignation.
For over 140 years, the attorneys of Eastburn and Gray have been committed to providing the highest level of professional service and ethical standards in the practice of law. We regret that Mr. Savona failed to uphold these standards.
Fortunately, no clients of the firm have been harmed. No other attorney or staff member was involved in the actions which resulted in the request for his resignation.
Any comments or questions about Mr. Savona’s future status or plans should be addressed to him or his attorney.
Eastburn and Gray, P.C.
The indictment provides details involving the various alleged crimes, including a scheme to receive a payoff for influencing a decision to allow an outdoor billboard company to lease public space in Lower Southampton. The indictment refers to “Solicitor #1,” who is described as being the solicitor for the township, which Savona was.
Here is a little taste of the indictment and where “Solicitor #1” is mentioned. From page 33:
Defendant WALTMAN stated that he would tell “RAFF’S CONSULTING to forget about it.” Salesman #1 asked, “Where is [Solicitor #1] in all of this?” Defendant WALTMAN stated that Solicitor #1 was “one of us.” Salesman #1 stated, “Let’s shake hands” and that he would “do five.”
From page 34:
WALTMAN stated that LST wanted to keep the billboard around the original price. Defendant WALTMAN stated, “It’s trickle-down economics, so everybody will be happy.” defendant WALTMAN and Salesman #1 discussed possible payments to both LST and RAFF’s CONSULTING. Defendant WALTMAN stated that he would try to get LST to agree to “56.”
Salesman #1 offered to pay RAFF’s CONSULTING “eight” if LST agreed to “56.” Defendant WALTMAN balked at the offer of $8,000 to RAFF’s CONSULTING. Defendant WALTMAN stated that Solicitor #1 would generally clear Company #1’s billboard project that evening with an LST officer and LST’s Board of Supervisors, and then WALTMAN and Salesman #1 would talk specific numbers the following day.
From page 35::
(g) On or about November 16, 2016, at approximately 12:50 p.m., Solicitor #1 sent a text message to Salesman #1, stating, “[Salesman #1]: At lunch with JW. Lower South lease should be for $55k. Revise and send me term sheet. $10k to consultant. Any questions let me know.”
From page 35 on:
On November 17, 2016, at approximately 3:15 p.m., defendant WALTMAN used a facility in interstate commerce to call Solicitor #1, who stated that he was “not happy” with Salesman #1. According to Solicitor #1, Salesman #1 raised Company #1’s offer to $60,000 per year to LST. Solicitor #1 stated, “Then we get into the discussion about, he’s got to do some consulting thing. Fine, no problem. He’s willing to do it, but he wants to start jiggling the numbers. So then he starts talking about what we talked about yesterday: 55, 10.” Defendant WALTMAN stated, “Yeah.” Solicitor #1 later stated, “I am assuming, because he now wants to take the Township’s rent from $60,000 a year to $55,000 a year over 30 years, John, that’s $150,000 that I’m putting back in his pocket.” Defendant WALTMAN stated, “Right.” Solicitor #1 stated, “And he wants to give you 10. Period.” Defendant WALTMAN laughed. Solicitor #1 stated that he told Salesman #1, “Do you think I was born yesterday? Do you think I don’t have a simple calculator? I can’t do math? Why would I agree, if you are now only going to take out 10,000 in the, in the consulting, finder fee, whatever, in the first year. Then why am I not talking about reducing the first year’s rent and then going back to the 60,000 that I know you can pay because you already offered it to me?” Defendant WALTMAN stated, “That’s right.” Solicitor #1 stated that he told Salesman #1, “Why would you think that I would give you back 150,000 so you can keep 140. Fuck you. I’m not ever going to do that.” Defendant WALTMAN stated, “Yeah.” Solicitor #1 also
stated that he told Salesman #1, “Why would I ever agree to reduce my rent for 30 years, so you can give my, give John one payment? Why would I ever fucking do that?” Defendant WALTMAN asked, “And what’d he say?” After mocking Salesman #1’s response, Solicitor #1 stated that he told Salesman #1, “Fine, you don’t want to pay him on a long-term contract, I’ll go back and I’ll talk to John, but I’m not reducing this rent for every year for the next 30 years.” Defendant WALTMAN stated, “Agreed.” Solicitor #1 stated that he told Salesman #1, “If you want to
only carve out one payment, then I am not reducing the rent for forever. Period.” Defendant WALTMAN instructed, “Stay on him. He’ll come back. Shut him down, and he’ll come back.” Defendant WALTMAN further stated, “You have complete control of this. You make the decision, okay? Alright.” Solicitor #1 stated, “I am going to squeeze his balls, John.” Defendant WALTMAN stated, “Okay, good. I have faith in you. Alright? We’ll talk…” Solicitor #1 stated, “I mean, you’re okay, you’re okay if…” Defendant WALTMAN stated, “I’m okay with you.” Solicitor #1 stated, “If it’s only a one-time…” Defendant WALTMAN stated, “You do your, well, if he does a one-time deal…” Solicitor #1 stated, “It’s gotta be bigger.” Defendant WALTMAN agreed, “It’s gotta be bigger than that, you know what I mean?” Solicitor #1 stated, “Yeah. Well, that’s what I’m thinking. And what I might squeeze him to do is, we do maybe two payments: maybe the first year it’s at 20, and the second year, it’s at 10, or something. We do something, we, I gotta get you more than a oneshot, fucking five or seven thousand dollars that he’s trying to do. That’s bullshit.” Defendant WALTMAN stated, “Stay on him. Stay on him. Thank you.” Solicitor #1 stated, “Iwill. I will.”
You can download the entire indictment here. The portion of the indictment that involves Savona begins on page 27.
The Borough also released a statement today. It states:
The Borough of Conshohocken received notification on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 that Michael J. Savona, Esq. of Eastburn and Gray, P.C. was the subject of an investigation related to the alleged criminal conduct of certain elected officials in a municipality he previously represented. Conshohocken is not involved in this investigation.
Eastburn and Gray requested and received Mr. Savona’s resignation. The Borough was informed that no other attorney or staff member at Eastburn and Gray was involved in the actions that resulted in the request for Mr. Savona’s resignation.
Michael E. Peters, Esq. of Eastburn and Gray, P.C. will serve Conshohocken Borough as Interim Solicitor. The transition is effective immediately. This position reports directly to Stephanie Cecco, Conshohocken Borough Manager.
“Mr. Peters has worked with Conshohocken Borough for more than four years and he knows and understands our community, our constituents and the business of the Borough,” said Ms. Cecco. “Our goal is to continue to provide our residents with uninterrupted and unparalleled service.”
The Borough will solicit responses in a formal bidding process for the position of Solicitor of Conshohocken Borough in 2018. This is a routine process.
Any comments or questions pertaining to Mr. Savona should be addressed to his attorney, Mark B. Sheppard, from Montgomery McCracken.
So what does all this mean? Savona’s work in Conshohocken isn’t involved in the indictment and he is not charged in the indictment. However, as it relates to Conshohocken, Savona was the person negotiating with developers and others hoping to conduct business in or with the Borough of Conshohocken. If what is outlined in the indictment is true, there needs to be a thorough investigation of his work on behalf of the Borough.
There are likely a lot of very uneasy feeling people throughout Montgomery and Bucks County this evening. Savona was the solicitor for several townships and boroughs. Sounds like he was on a wire right?
Let us know what you think in the comments.
Photo: Eastburn and Gray