PRACTICES

Public Finance & Government Services

The McNees Public Finance & Government Services group is a team of accomplished lawyers from various practice areas with the experience to provide specialized legal services to government entities at all levels.  State agencies, political subdivisions, school districts, municipalities, and authorities turn to McNees attorneys for comprehensive, responsive advice regarding the complex legal issues and challenges they face.

Public Finance
Our public finance representation includes roles as bond counsel, underwriter’s counsel, disclosure counsel, special tax counsel, trustee’s counsel and counsel to issuers.  As bond counsel, we embrace our role as “advisor” to the issuer under Rule 2.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.  We are there to protect the issuer to the best of our ability and to provide the issuer with direct and practical advice on what the issuer can or should do.  Our local government bond counsel clients include many counties, cities, boroughs, townships, school districts and authorities across Pennsylvania.

We advise issuers and underwriters on compliance with continuing disclosure obligations and other securities law matters as well as various tax requirements, such as multipurpose allocations, qualified hedges, reissuance and rebate requirements.  We participate in transactions involving the funding of new capital projects and the refinancing of existing debt.  We have extensive experience with all types of debt structures, including competitive and negotiated underwritings, fixed and variable rate debt, derivatives, credit enhancement, large direct placements with banks or insurance companies and more traditional tax-exempt bank loans.  We also represent issuers in connection with IRS examinations of their tax-exempt bonds.

We also represent for-profit and nonprofit borrowers, underwriters, banks, trust companies and other financial institutions in financings.  Our nonprofit borrower clients include many healthcare and higher education institutions.

Our state clients consist of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general obligation issues and many state agencies in various types of revenue issues, including the Commonwealth Financing Authority, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority and the State Public School Building Authority.  We also served as special tax counsel to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

To demonstrate the depth and breadth of our experience, and by way of example, we were ranked by The Bond Buyer as the fifth largest bond counsel firm in Pennsylvania (for calendar year 2016) based on the aggregate principal amount of bond issues on which we served as bond counsel.  The firm also was ranked fourth in Pennsylvania in the 2016 Underwriter’s Counsel Rankings and is one of just two firms to appear in the top five in both lists in 2016.  In 2013, McNees was ranked first in the Pennsylvania Bond Counsel Rankings.

The Firm is listed in the “Municipal Bond Attorneys” section of the most recent edition of The Bond Buyer’s Municipal Marketplace.

We have extensive experience and have done hundreds of financings under the Local Government Unit Debt Act (“LGUDA”), including both bank loans and public bond issues.  We are experienced in analyzing the “bank qualified” status of such loans.  In addition to financings, we work with state and local governments on related public finance matters such as the legality of various types of investments, the sale or leasing of assets, and the relationship between municipalities and their authorities.  We have significant experience working on successful public-private partnerships.

Government Services
In our government services representations, we partner with solicitors, officials, managers, auditors and financial advisors to identify practical, cost-effective solutions to difficult legal issues.  We regularly advise boroughs, townships, cities, counties, authorities, school districts and other government agencies on complex legal issues, such as the potential sale or lease of municipal assets, environmental and related regulatory issues, internal complaint investigations that require independence, complicated debt restructurings, costly litigation, or any other significant, complex legal issue.

We understand the practical challenges facing elected and appointed officials and that public entities at all levels operate within a heavily regulated and complex legal framework.  Other law firms may view these challenges from within a single practice area, but we take a comprehensive, strategic approach, drawing on the collective knowledge and experience of our lawyers across practice areas.

Our Clients First approach is always paramount.  We pride ourselves on responsive, quality advice and counsel. Before joining McNees, many of our government services lawyers had successful careers in-house at the state, county or municipal level or within agencies where many issues are decided, so they have an in-depth understanding of the different needs of each of our clients and the issues that are important to them.

Our cross-functional government services team focuses on complex legal issues in the areas of:

Education
We represent school districts, intermediate units, charter schools, and cyber charter schools with special education compliance and litigation, including administrative due process hearings.  We assist schools and educational providers with legal issues related to school funding, teacher certification, and student misconduct. We often assist public education institutions with policy review, drafting and implementation and with contract drafting and review. We have extensive experience with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Pennsylvania School Code, and the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law.

Energy & Environmental
Our Energy & Environmental team focuses on regulatory compliance, guiding public sector clients through complex regulatory frameworks, and representing public entities and authorities before federal regulatory agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, as well as state agencies, including the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.  We are experienced in litigating before federal and state courts and other tribunals, including the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board.  We help municipalities defend Environmental Rights Amendment claims.

We advise municipal entities that own and operate fixed utility systems (e.g. water, wastewater, stormwater, electric, etc.) on end user rates and rate design issues, as well as inter-municipal agreements concerning use of those fixed utilities.  This includes dispute resolution regarding terms, conditions and rates for those fixed utility services for customers living outside municipal boundaries.

On the transactional side, we assist municipalities with the development and implementation of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability projects.  We work with municipalities to obtain competitive market pricing for both wholesale and retail electric/power purchase contracts, and we assist with asset monetization, whether in the form of an asset sale, long term lease, or long or short-term operational agreement.  To support these projects, we have facilitated successful public-private partnerships.

Our team assists municipal entities within the Marcellus and Utica Shale regions on various issues regarding natural gas and oil issues.

Recently, our team has assisted municipalities and authorities address storm water compliance requirements, including helping develop creative solutions for funding and completing projects.

Labor & Employment
Our Labor and Employment attorneys are keenly aware of the unique challenges facing public sector employers in Pennsylvania.  Our proactive approach allows municipal leaders to stay in front of issues, rather than waiting to respond to costly litigation.  We work with elected and appointed officials to develop policies, procedures, handbooks and general practices to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.

Our Labor and Employment attorneys help government employers solve the difficult problems that arise in the workplace.  In addition to policy development, we offer a wide array of training programs designed to keep supervisors and managers up to date on key compliance issues.  In the event that there is a dispute, our attorneys are experienced litigators.  We know how to respond to demands and lawsuits.

Our labor attorneys have extensive experience in collective bargaining, grievance administration and arbitration, and interest arbitration.  Whether you are facing negotiations with non-union employees, interest arbitration with police, fire or other units, or you are heading into grievance arbitration, we can help.  We have an experienced team that will work efficiently to help you solve your complex labor issues.

Litigation
Our Litigation team represents governmental and quasi-governmental entities in all types of disputes.  We routinely represent the interests of state agencies, counties, cities, townships, boroughs and other governmental entities as well as public authorities, universities and hospitals.  We recognize the importance and sensitivity of disputes involving substantial financial and political stakes, and we understand that when presented with a dispute, many legal questions arise, and the process can be overwhelming.  We also understand that even though litigation is sometimes necessary to protect rights, it can be a drain on resources and disruptive to a government entity’s day to day operations.  Keeping these things in mind, we combine our broad experience with personalized attention to answer our clients’ questions about a dispute, aggressively represent them in litigation proceedings, and consistently and actively counsel them to reassess the objectives as a case develops.

Our public sector clients can rely on our extensive experience before state and federal courts and administrative agencies, including the handling of high-profile litigation involving civil rights claims, contract disputes, eminent domain and land use matters, and personal injury litigation.  Together with attorneys from other practice groups, we provide clients with the strategic thinking and comprehensive subject-matter know-how necessary to advance public sector projects and resolve disputes.

Recently, our team has helped a number of municipalities answer questions regarding eminent domain matters, which can become issues for government entities in any number of ways.

Privacy & Data Security
Our cybersecurity team advises public sector entities on how to proactively limit the risks of data breaches and the ensuing liabilities.  Our lawyers recognize that data exposure events are inevitable so entities must seek to be “compromise ready.”  We assist clients in reaching this goal by providing training and education, privacy and security assessments, strong data security policies, appropriate breach response plans, and attention to insurance and indemnification issues.

We help public sector entities, including state and local government entities, school districts and authorities respond to data breaches, including rectifying and reporting those events, and providing notice to affected individuals.

We also advise clients on compliance with federal, state, and international privacy laws, including compliance with governmental standards applicable to state and federal contractors.

Real Estate
Our Real Estate team provides sophisticated legal advice to a broad range of clients in most areas of commercial real estate and land use.  Our clients include residential and commercial real estate developers, investors and lenders; buyers and sellers of real estate; businesses and non-profit entities such as colleges and universities with significant real estate components; and commercial lessors and lessees.  Our goal is to help our clients achieve their objectives at every stage of the real estate transaction through practical, efficient and timely representation.

Software & Technology Licensing
We regularly assist clients with the review and negotiation of software license, development, implementation and services agreements.  With more, boroughs, townships, counties, authorities and school districts entering into technology-related contracts, including software service agreements, we take the time to explain the implications of the agreement, spot risk points and negotiate more favorable terms for them and work through the issues presented with a new software implementation, so that they can better anticipate and reduce risks like software failure and data loss or exposure.

Working in conjunction with our Privacy and Data Security group, we advise local governments on how to navigate the increasingly high-stakes practice of collecting, transmitting and storing sensitive data.

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