Robert Troy

Bourne Town Counsel Robert Troy

The process of selecting new legal counsel for the Town of Bourne has begun. Three law firms are under consideration to replace outgoing town counsel Robert S. Troy.

The Bourne Select Board interviewed the three candidate firms during its meeting on Monday, November 29. No decision was made, as board members agreed to take some time to digest what each firm claimed to offer the town and to announce a decision at a future meeting.

The firms that interviewed included Miyares & Harrington LLP of Wellesley, KP Law PC of Boston, and Brooks & DeRensis PC, also of Boston. Each firm had 30 minutes to present, followed by questions and answers. All three went beyond the time, with Brooks & DeRensis going well past an hour.

Each of the firms described itself as being focused on municipal law. Each also assured the select board of being readily available anytime a question of legality arises and of being the right-sized firm to service the needs of the town.

Bryan F. Bertram with Miyares & Harrington LLP said the firm is midsized, but with enough lawyers that they offer specialization. The firm is small enough, Mr. Bertram said, that “if I need an answer to something I can just walk down the hall to somebody and ask them.”

Brian M. Maser with KP Law said the firm already has a large presence on the Cape and islands, so they are very familiar with the issues facing a coastal community such as Bourne. His colleague, Gregg J. Corbo, described the company as offering “big-firm depth of experience and expertise with small-firm feel and relationship.”

Paul R. DeRensis with Brooks & DeRensis said he would bring a wealth of municipal experience through his time spent serving as a selectmen in Sherborn, where he also served on the planning board and finance committee. Mr. DeRensis, whose company was the last to be interviewed, said his firm fits right between the small firms and the large firms “like the ones you just interviewed.”

“We have the experience, we have the team, but we’re not so big that you become lost,” he said. “You don’t get delegated down to junior associates and get forgotten.”

Selection of new town counsel became necessary with Mr. Troy’s announcement that he would not seek a renewal of his contract with the Town of Bourne. He had been the town’s legal counsel for more than four decades.

Mr. Troy’s most recent five-year contract with the town was set to expire on May 18. The select board approved an extension to June 18 and then extended it for another six months to December 18.

Earlier this year, the select board issued a request for proposals from firms that would be interested in providing legal services to the town. In February, Mr. Troy informed the board that Troy-Wall Associates would not participate in the RFP process due to the state’s conflict of interest laws.

Mr. Troy explained that state law allows for severe financial penalties of a municipal employee who participates in matters for which the employee has a financial interest. Participation in the RFP process, while employed by the town, constituted such a conflict of interest, he said.

When asked how it would handle the process of the town transitioning from Mr. Troy, each firm said it would work cooperatively with the former town counsel to effect an efficient transfer. All three also assured the board that, if necessary, they could assume town counsel duties as soon as the town would like.

Board members wanted to know what each firm would do to avoid or mitigate legal risk from the actions of town boards, committees, employees and other officials. Each said it does a substantial amount of training with town staff, volunteers and officials.

“We think it’s better to have people knowing what they’re doing than it is to clean up the messes afterward,” Mr. DeRensis said.

Mr. Maser said his firm provides training in a wide range of areas, including Open Meeting Law, conflict of interest, public records requests, sexual harassment, anti-discrimination, how to avoid workplace incidents, and what to do in the event an incident does occur.

“Being proactive, getting out in front of things, providing that type of service is something that we do, and do well, as a firm,” he said.

Alexandra B. Rubin with Miyares & Harrington said training is crucial. She said that too often something wrong happens and the person involved admits to not knowing better. Training sessions, she said, are “a good way to stay out of trouble” because they frequently trigger a question about something that happened in the workplace.

All three firms also agreed when asked for their strategies relative to pursuing litigation particularly when the dispute is between two town boards or committees. The consensus was that coming to an agreement or settlement is ideal and that having an issue wind up in court is a last resort.

“I can tell you in my experience in litigation,” Mr. Bertram, “if you can find a compromise, preferably before the litigation, you’re better off.”

“We always look first for ways to avoid getting into litigation,” Mr. Corbo said.

Other questions raised and answered by the candidates focused on the firm’s approach to a town counsel’s involvement with land acquisitions, eminent domain takings and responding to public records requests.

Select board members said they will take the information and answers provided by the three firms under advisement and will make an announcement at a future meeting as to which they will hire.

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