Preparations are underway for negotiations with Bourne Town Counsel Robert S. Troy when the attorney’s current contract with the Town of Bourne ends later this year. A draft set of criteria for what the town expects from its town counsel is being finalized. Town officials noted that there is no move afoot to discontinue their working relationship with Mr. Troy.
The Bourne Board of Selectmen discussed a draft request for qualification/information for town counsel legal services during its remote meeting Tuesday, February 16. Board chairwoman Judith M. Froman noted that Mr. Troy’s current contract providing legal services to the town ends in May.
Ms. Froman said the board has already had some conversations with Mr. Troy. The board wants to have more conversations with him during a public meeting regarding what selectmen would like in his next contract. She was quick to assert that drafting the RFQ was not a signal that the town is no longer interested in having Mr. Troy as town counsel.
“It’s not a matter of letting go of our current town counsel,” Ms. Froman said. “We just want to have a conversation about what are the different types of things that we want to have involved and that we think are important.”
Board members settled on a list of more than a dozen areas of law that would be expected from the town’s attorney. The list included experience and knowledge with state law; municipal finance; state procurement laws; town charter interpretation and guidance; open meeting law, public records law and conflict of interest; land use and real estate; special legislation and home rule petitions; zoning; state liquor licensing laws; federal and state conservation regulatory guidance and permitting; and energy contracts.
Selectman James L. Potter suggested expanding land use and real estate experience to include knowledge and guidance with traffic regulations as well as public versus private roads in town. Selectman Peter J. Meier added that human resources and labor law experience should be included, too.
“I just want town counsel to be able to help out, if needed, on a case-by-case basis,” Mr. Meier said.
Mr. Potter pointed out that, depending on the applicant, whether it is a small or large firm, the interview process would reveal how the individual areas of expertise would be addressed. A smaller firm, he said, might seek help from another firm. A larger firm might have in-house divisions dedicated to specific areas of the law, such as human resources and labor issues.
“I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to do it,” he said.
Selectmen agreed the successful candidate must have qualified for the bar at both the state and federal levels for the district of Massachusetts. The board also agreed on a minimum of five years of experience as a practicing attorney and on whether the applicant has previously worked for a city or town.
Board members and Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi also felt an agreement should be reached to have town counsel on a retainer that would allow town officials to reach out without worrying about running up a sizable bill. Mr. Potter said there should never be a concern over whether “the meter’s running if you need to contact town counsel.”
“Town counsel should be sort of an extension of the staff,” he said, “in a way that you have to feel comfortable that they’re on the same team to solve problems and not worry about every email and every phone call.”
Ms. Froman noted that the RFQ was in draft form as a work-in-progress. Discussion of the town counsel contract began in executive session several weeks earlier, she said.
The board unanimously approved a motion to have Mr. Schiavi draft a final invitation for town legal services based on the suggestions made during the board’s deliberations.