For the past four months, the Planning Board has been trying to hire a new town planner after former Town Planner Vera Kolias resigned last April. The board met with Selectmen last week to talk about the position, in a conversation that was at times heated.
Planning Board members clashed with selectmen Tuesday night, telling them that they refuse to be left in the dark if the next town planner is subjected to another internal investigation.
“We are spending hours and hours trying to find a new planner because of a situation in the past we were not made aware of,” Planning Board member Mary Hynes told selectmen. “We are in a difficult situation because of something we were never involved with, which we weren’t consulted with or advised of, and received responses from town counsel but not the Board of Selectmen.”
Former Town Planner Vera Kolias resigned in April. She was one of four town employees investigated over alleged remarks made about Police Chief Jane Moran in a Sept. 29, 2009, after-hours get-together.
You can read more in the Metrowest Daily News.
From the MWDN:
“”I will suggest that if you need further clarification and want to run it by town counsel, this board gives you the opportunity to do that,” Phaneuf said just before the meeting ended.”
Unfortunately, given the significant disagreement between the 2 boards I think it would be very questionable for Town Counsel to advise the Planning Board. Town Counsel, who is an outside contractor has been advising the Selectmen on this matter. I for one question if it is appropriate for Counsel to also advise the Planning Board who appear to have a very different view of the situation.
It is clear to me from long standing practice that Mr Cipriano is the Seletmen’s Lawyer in this matter.
I don’t have a beef with Mr. Cipriano, he has provided the town with many useful services at a reasonable rate. But I don’t think it is fair or appropriate to him to ask him to play both sides of the fence.
Many of us have tried to peice together the facts and decision making process that led to the now infamous “Unogate” debacle. One common thread throughout this debacke has teh chorus of comments from the Selectmen that they took actions and made decisions after consulting with town counsel Aldo Cipriano.
Al said “I don’t have a beef with Mr. Cipriano, he has provided the town with many useful services at a reasonable rate” I hope the more valuable aspect of his services is the quality of his advice, not the price.
It might be approprite for the town fathers to take a moment and evaluate the legal advise they have received from Mr. Cipriano.
From my vantage point I think Mr. Cipriano has done a number of things well. He deserves a lot of credit for helping reduce our backlog of tax delinquencies. I think on many day to day issues he has given sound practical advice.
I do believe that we may have become over-reliant on him and may have ceded him more power that is appropriate. He is not omniscient, his advice to town meeting that the town legislature could not approve a budget number in excess of the sum printed in the warrant appears to have been in error if we are to believe John Wilson, which I do.
I also think having him redact minutes where he was present is potentially problematic and that the whole redaction process is questionable and certainly not in the interest of transparency.
One of the jobs of a Lawyer is to serve as a lightning rod. He provides the his client a convenient excuse for an unpopular position or decision. “I have used the “My lawyer (or accountant) won’t let me do it” excuse a number of times and I suspect that is part of what is going on.
I think you are correct that we should examine how we manage legal resources. It has been my observation that we may defer too much to Mr. Cipriano and some push back would be helpful.
So my observation is that in day to day operational matters Mr. Cipriano delivers good value for money. However, in matters where there is potential differences of opinion between boards or with member of Town Meeting we should all understand that he is representing his client and that client is the one with their hands on his purse strings, the Board of Selectmen. Asking him to advise or represent both sides is not fair to him nor appropriate.