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Do-Over on Legal Counsel for BCWA

The board of the Bristol County Water Authority will interview again and choose its legal counsel next week after hearing that the open meetings law is 'unclear' on this issue.

It will be a do-over for the board of the Bristol County Water Authority.

The voted unanimously Wednesday evening, Jan. 9, to invite all of the finalists in the search for legal counsel to return and be interviewed again.

If no one is interested, the board will stick with the choice it made on Dec. 20 to rehire its longtime attorney, Sandra Mack, a partner with Cameron & Mittleman of Providence.

The board revisited the search on Wednesday because of criticism that when it awarded the contract for legal services it may have violated open meeting laws. It asked for an opinion from the RI Attorney General’s office before it decided to reopen the search.

Sally McDonald, associate counsel for the BCWA from Cameron & Mittleman, said she spoke to Michael Fields, the authority in the Attorney General’s Office on the open meeting law. She said the law regarding interviews “is unclear.” 

But erring on the side of caution, she said, the board should probably conduct the interviews again.

BCWA Board Chairman Allan Klepper of Barrington, who asked for the legal opinion, said: “An unintentional error was made. I accept responsibility for that.”

So, he asked the board members if they would be willing to interview the candidates again next Wednesday, Jan. 16. Their proposals will be discussed in closed and open sessions and then the board will vote again after using the same ranking system as it used the first time.

“We are going to comply with the law,” Klepper said, “however ridiculous it may be.”

The board voted 5-2 the first time at a Dec. 20 meeting to retain the law firm of Cameron and Mittleman, specifically Mack, who has been the water authority’s legal counsel for about 20 years.

The vote seemed to end the search for legal counsel that had gotten responses to an RFP from seven law firms, five of whom were interviewed.

Nope. It will be a do-over next week, presuming any of the finalists opt to return for another interview.

Gary Morse January 10, 2013 at 02:58 PM
The law in this matter is clearly not "unclear" when all the facts are put on the table, which it appears Ms McDonald failed to do in her conversation with the AG. What is "ridiculous" is that the long history of Ms Mack's legal counsel is part of the reason BCWA is where it is today. If BCWA believes this is rebuilding confidence with the community, they need to seriously rethink this matter.
Manifold Witness January 10, 2013 at 03:17 PM
Maybe this time one or more of the candidates will opt to have his/her interview in an open public meeting.
Please volunteer January 11, 2013 at 12:31 PM
The vote is all that needed to be done over. Now we run the risk that some of the firms refuse to be interviewed again. Ater all, who has time to waste in poorly run hiring processes? This will increase the chances that Mack (whose ridiculously overpriced services were not even good enough to advise properly about legally posting a crucially important meeting) might be selected again. Ugh.

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