AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Monday, September 15, 2014
Foxboro Selectmen Seek More Compatible Counsel
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, September 15, 2014.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
it seems the Foxboro Board of Selectmen will be looking for a new law firm to
represent them and the town very soon.Apparently dissatisfied with their current legal firm, they will no
doubt be posting the opportunity in various state and municipal publications as
well as on selected web sites.
after hearing some of their initial reasons for wanting to change counsel –
again – it might be better if they post their request on a different type of
web site.You might soon see an ad
similar to this one in the personals section of your favorite newspaper or web
small town’s highest elected body seeking attentive, loyal lawyer to agree with
us at all costs.Must be an “advocate”
and not an “accommodator” – unless accommodating us.Must deliver only agreeable opinions, never
even imply we are wrong publically or privately, and like long walks on the
beach while holding at least three hands.Must like sports, but can’t be too big a Patriots fan.Experience in accurately analyzing Open
Meeting Law unnecessary.Submit application
with loyalty oath to Town Hall.”
answering need be aware the board may not be looking for a long-term
The move to
dump the current firm of Gelerman and Cabral LLC was supported by selectmen
Lorraine Brue, Virginia Coppola and James Gray.It was opposed by James DeVellis and David Feldman.It came despite the understanding of at least
some members that selectman had committed to the current firm for three years,
and was now dumping them after two.
did indeed say Richard Gelerman, the main attorney, has been too much of an
accommodator.She explained that an
advocate for the board’s goals was needed.She also said the firm lacked “depth”, and that other town boards had
found it necessary to hire outside counsel on various issues because of that.
the title of the position is “Town Counsel”, the truth is lawyers who hold
these jobs basically work for the selectmen – the board that hires and fires
them.If an attorney does not make a
majority of their bosses happy, the relationship is not likely to last.
anyone observing selectmen’s meetings over the last year or so, it is obvious
Gelerman was on the outs with some board members.Much of the conversation directed towards him
tended to be more than a bit condescending.Two of the selectmen in the majority are up for reelection in May.It may be they felt the change had to be done
before the possibly of a power shift.
Gelerman had to advise his bosses they violated the Open Meeting Law on at
least two occasions has not helped, nor has his role in resolving some
controversial issues (like Splittsville) where the board was forced to do an uncomfortable
“depth” issue is a bit of a red-herring argument.It is not unusual for town boards in any
community with specialized needs to seek outside counsel for bonding, labor issues
or special circumstances.
issues and legal situations are especially complicated.With an NFL franchise supplying a huge
percentage of its revenue and bringing with it many complex contracts and
agreements, the legal and political issues can be difficult.
may be that finding a new law firm to represent them is a good thing.The board must have faith and confidence in
their legal representation.If that no
longer exists – regardless of the reasons – it can put the entire community in
a bad situation.
course, there is a difference between just simply replacing your attorney at
the end of their contract, and unceremoniously dropping them with almost a year
left on their agreement.And making the
decision after only one brief public discussion implies either a failure to
consider the matter carefully enough or a predetermined plan.
that would indicate a disregard for the Open Meeting Law.Surely that is not the case.
attorney must indeed be an advocate for their clients.But the attorney also owes them honesty and
his/her best advice – even if they don’t want to hear it.
that can make those long walks on the beach very
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
a longtime local official.He can be
emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at