Both sides have now had their day in court in a dispute over whether township officials should be forced to collect a business privilege tax from the owners of a landfill in Northampton County.
The non-jury trial, which began Monday, ended with a promise Tuesday afternoon from Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano that he would rule as quickly as possible on the suit filed by a citizens group known as the Committee to Save Williams Township against Chrin Brothers Inc.
The Committee's lawyer, Atty. Gary Asteak, said afterward that "three months seem like a reasonable guess" for the judge to make his decision.
Williams Twp. supervisor Vincent Foglia and supervisors chairman George Washburn were called back to the stand for a few final questions from Asteak and Chrin attorney Maryanne Starr Garber.
Both lawyers wanted to know if Foglia and Washburn would be willing to vote at the next supervisors meeting to order the township treasurer to collect the tax from Chrin, without being told to by the judge.
Both declined to answer, saying the question was "speculative" and that they would want to meet with the township solicitor to discuss the facts of the case and do a "cost-benefit analysis" of pursuing legal action against Chrin.
The Committee to Save Williams Township believes the court should force the township to collect a 4 percent business privilege tax on the landfill's tipping fees for most of the years between 1989 and 2013.
Daniel Cwynar, a Commitee member and a former township auditor, testified on Monday that believes Chrin owes more than $30 million in back taxes.
Chrin officials say the court should not act because the township agreed to rescind the tax as part of a host agreement reached with the township in 1988 that required the landfill operator to pay $16,666 a month.
While the township never rescinded the tax, terms of subsequent agreements in 1992, 1997 and 2009 were negotiated as if it was, according to Chrin officials, including vice president Gregory Chrin, who spent almost two hours on the stand Tuesday morning outlining negotiations for those agreements.
Washburn was in court Tuesday afternoon after Giordano asked twice from the bench in the morning session why he wasn't on the witness list, during testimony from Foglia.
Both Foglia and Washburn received support from the Committee during their campaigns for supervisor, and after Foglia's election, Foglia and Washburn voted not to defend the suit filed last year by the committee, over the objections of supervisor Sally Hixon.
Atty. Sean Gresh, who works for the township solicitor, told Giordano, "We didn't think it was necessary" for Washburn to appear.
But after making a phone call, Gresh told the judge Washburn would appear in the afternoon.
Under questioning from both Asteak and Garber, Washburn admitted he was unaware that Giordano could not order Chrin to pay back taxes, or determine how much, if any, the amount should be.
Washburn was also asked about a letter he and Foglia received from Garber last March, warning that state ethics law prohibited them from making any rulings involving the landfill and the business privilege tax because both received support from the Committee.
While Foglia testified he perceived Garber's letter as a threat, Washburn said he "didn't pay any attention to the letter. ... I though it was positioning."
Foglia explained why he thought otherwise. "I knew I would subject myself to that [Chrin's] legal team. ... I was convinced I would face an organization with much higher paid lawyers than I could afford."
Under cross-examination, Foglia admitted the letter drafted by his attorney, Don Miles, in response to Garber's said he would not be bullied or intimidated, and that Garber's arguments had no legal merit.
Foglia also admitted he has voted on some Chrin-related issues that have come before the supervisors, including the approval of a Chrin land development plan and the hiring of a geologist to independently investigate what's underneath the landfill because of dissatisfaction with a Department of Environmental Protection study.
But, Foglia added, those actions were "positive" for Chrin. "I was told [in Garber's letter] I could not act in any negative way."