A town-wide policy detailing the procedures Bourne town employees and members of town boards and committees must follow to request a legal opinion from the town's attorney has been reaffirmed.
Town officials have voted unanimously in favor of keeping intact the policy that requires the town administrator's approval of consulting town counsel.
The policy was discussed during a board of selectmen workshop on Tuesday, July 21. As adopted in 2017, the policy requires a request form for a consultation with Town Counsel Robert S. Troy be filled out first. That form is then submitted to Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi for approval or denial.
Reportedly, the policy has been followed by all but one unidentified entity within town government.
Without naming anyone, selectman James L. Potter said he is aware of at least one person who has not followed the parameters of the policy. The person in question, Mr. Potter said, has circumvented the policy's rules and sought answers to questions outside the scope of the person's committee or board's charge.
"They're getting responses from town counsel, not going through the proper channel, and it's costing taxpayers' money. It should definitely be, not discouraged, it should be totally not allowed," he said.
The current policy, adopted in December 2017, states that all inquiries by elected or appointed town officials relating to legal issues will be referred immediately to the town administrator.
"After reviewing a request for legal opinion, or a request for legal services, the town administrator shall approve or deny the request," the policy states.
The policy also stipulates that the town counsel's response will be to the person who made the request, the town administrator and the board of selectmen. The policy also recognizes that municipal employees have a statutory right to seek legal advice from town counsel in the case of questions relative to conflict of interest, whistleblower claims, discrimination claims and public records requests.
Those requests will be documented by the offices of the town administrator and the town clerk but do not require the town administrator's approval.
Board chairwoman Judith M. Froman said the board was not looking to rewrite the current policy. She said she felt it is important to make sure everyone connected with town government in Bourne is very clear on what the policy is regarding consulting Mr. Troy.
"We pay for these services, so it's important to keep those in mind and have someone keep an eye on it," she said.
Mr. Potter asked Mr. Schiavi if he feels the policy, as written, is working well. The administrator said he feels the policy is being "very well implemented." He added that he considers it a good idea to send the policy out to all town employees and town board and committee members as a reminder that he has the final say on whether to consult with Mr. Troy.
"To make sure it's in their lane of whatever board or committee they may represent and it's not just a question they'd like to have town counsel weigh in on," he said.