WILMINGTON, MA — The Board of Selectmen recently introduced its new Town Counsel, KP Law, to residents at its recent meeting.
“We had great interviews with you,” Selectmen Chair Kevin Caira told the attorneys. “We feel you’re the right firm for Wilmington with the experience and background that you have. We’re looking forward to a great relationship moving forward.”
Attorneys Mark Rich, Jonathan Silverstein, and Joe Fair spoke on behalf of the law firm.
“We’ve very excited and very honored to have gone through the interview process successfully and now be before you as your new Town Counsel,” said Mark Rich, who will serve as the town’s point person for legal services. “We really look forward to hitting the ground running. We’re looking forward to receiving all the materials and getting caught up on what’s going on in the town. Wilmington is a very sophisticated community. It has a number of different issues. We’re excited to be a part of your team and to be available to you and assist you in every matter that comes before you.”
“We really appreciate the confidence you’ve shown in us by this appointment. We understand there was some very qualified firms that came before you,” said Jonathan Silverstein, who specializes in land use matters and will work closely with the Planning Department, Planning Board and Board of Appeals. “I want to acknowledge it wasn’t a unanimous vote and we’re going to do everything we can to win over the entire board and demonstrate to you that you made the right choice.”
“I echo my colleagues comments. We thank you for this opportunity and look forward to hitting the ground running,” added Joe Fair, who specializes in labor employment matters and will interact primarily with the town’s Human Relations Director and Town Manager.
Selectmen voted, 4-1, to approve the contract. Selectman Mike McCoy, who initially opposed the selection and wanted to see the town “retain” Brooks & DeRensis, also opposed the contract.
“I’m willing to work with anybody — any firm — as long it’s in the best interest in the community,” said McCoy. “I do look forward to working with you, but I just wanted to be consistent [in my votes].”
“We look forward to winning you over,” responded Silverstein.
The remaining Selectmen spoke highly of KP Law.
Selectman Ed Loud stressed the importance of Town Counsel helping the Planning Department draft an inclusionary bylaw to be voted upon by next Annual Town Meeting. Attorney Silverstein noted he’s already met with the Planning Director and Town Engineer to discuss pressing matters and noted “it shouldn’t be an issue to get [the inclusionary bylaw article] on for spring’s Town Meeting warrant.”
Selectman Greg Bendel, and some of his colleagues, expressed interest in KP Law’s offer to conduct various legal trainings for the town administration and the Board itself.
What About Dan Deutsch?
Selectmen did not act upon a request from Selectman Mike McCoy to make Dan Deutsch Special Town Counsel for matters related to Olin and New England Transrail because the commitment letter from Deutsch’s firm was received late and thus not included on the meeting’s agenda.
“Before the vote is taken on KP Law, I would hope to think that everyone did receive that email [with the commitment letter]. I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to sign and have Dan Deutsch come on board?,” asked McCoy. “Dan Deutsch has done an outstanding job. We need to take care of the safety and well-being of the residents. We can’t push that under the rug.”
“I received that email today. It’s not on the agenda for issues to vote on, so I’m not going to entertain that,” responded Selectmen Chair Kevin Caira.
“The town evidently received [the letter] on Friday. We all received an email today. That is what we’re talking about here. So I’d like to make a motion,” shot back McCoy.
“I won’t accept the motion as it’s not part of the agenda,” Caira interjected. “It still needs to be negotiated. It comes with a big package… It basically stipulates that we pay for four attorneys, the paralegals, the clerical – it’s like hiring another firm – and I’m not into hiring another firm. I’m into hiring a Special Town Counsel, but not every attorney in that law firm.”
“We put into the contract [with KP Law] the option for us to hire special town counsel, so that is protecting Wilmington’s right to hire Special Town Counsel,” Caira also assured.
“This is two separate issues here. We’re taking a vote to contract with KP Law for the next year. If the town wants to contract with someone else, we can do that at any time,” added Selectman Greg Bendel.
“So what happens from now until the board’s next meeting in mid-August [with Olin and New England Transrail]?,” asked McCoy?
“I do appreciate your concern for getting something set up so we know who will be handling NET and Olin,” responded Selectman Jonathan Eaton. “But Mr. DeRenesis, [Deutsch’s boss] has been on vacation. That’s why we didn’t get a contract sent until Friday. I got an email today at 12:09pm — that’s the first time that I saw the commitment letter. It didn’t make it on the agenda, so the public doesn’t have the opportunity to let their voice be heard. I do share your urgency to get this locked down. I want that to be ironed out.”
“It was sent here on Friday, July 6, well beyond the 48 hours that it was received here,” claimed McCoy. “It should have been on this agenda, but it’s not.”
Town Manager Jeff Hull clarified that, under the Open Meeting Law, the 48 hour posting requirement does not include weekends.
“Let me be clear. The information was sent via email to me on Friday. The agenda needs to be posted 48 hours before the Monday meeting, which requires that it be posted by the close of business on Thursday, July 5. That took place. The fact we received this on Friday did not allow it to be placed on agenda for consideration,” said Hull. “The public has a right to know what’s going to be considered and taken at the meeting. I can’t control what how quickly this information comes in. This came in on Friday. For better or worse, that was when it was received.”
Later on, during Public Comments, former Selectwoman Suzanne Sullivan asked if there actually is a real commitment by the board to retain Dan Deutsch.
“We’re under discussion with Brooks & DeRensis to entertain Dan Deutsch as Special Counsel. Mr. DeRensis has been on vacation. Town Manager Hull has sent several emails and tried to have conversations with Mr. DeRensis. We’re waiting for him to come back from vacation,” Caira told Sullivan.
Sullivan told Caira she’d like to see the board make a motion to retain Deutsch as Special Counsel.
“Not at this time,” responded Caira. “We need to get into discussions with that firm to see if it’s feasible and the right thing to do. Once that’s done, we’ll call a special meeting and take the matter up at this time.”
“We just received a letter of engagement on Friday that was forwarded to the board this afternoon,” added Eaton. “We haven’t been sitting on our laurels for two weeks. We’re not dropping the ball. We’re trying to get a meeting of the minds.”
“That’s my concern — that it’s going to lag out there,” said Sullivan.
“I can reassure you that it won’t lag out there. It will be acted upon, one way or another.” said Caira.
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