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Selectmen Chairman Says Town Counsel Decision Does Not Rest With Board

As town residents push the Board of Selectmen to address the issue of whether to reappoint town counsel Donna Brewer, the town manager and chairman of the Board of Selectmen says state law gives the town manager total control to name the town attorney.

The power to appoint the town counsel sits solely with Town Manager Michael Lombardo.

And that’s why the Board of Selectmen, after , is not taking up the topic of whether Donna Brewer should continue as town counsel, according to Board Chairman David Neill.

She is eligible for reappointment yearly on July 1 and Lombardo decided to keep her on board.

Neill said typically he prefers to addresses issues head-on at Board of Selectmen meetings.

“With this, we don’t have the authority to make the decision,” Neill said in comments following Monday night’s meeting.

Neill, and immediately named chairman, was also a selectman in the 1990s when Brewer first became town attorney. He pointed to a section of the “Special Act” that established Hamilton’s Town Manager form of government in 2009 that allows the town manager to appoint all town “officers.” Others, such as department heads, can undergo the review the Board of Selectmen. But the hiring and firing of "officers" rest soley with the town manager.

The Special Act removed the hiring of the town counsel from the “political arena,” Neill said.

For the second week in a row on Monday night, residents brought their concerns about Brewer to the board. This time, Rock Maple Avenue resident Jack Lawrence told the board that he had hoped to see the topic of Brewer’s reappointment on the board’s agenda.

“I don’t see it this evening and I think it is really something that needs to be discussed,” Lawrence said.

Later, Lawrence said several town reports, , were “scathing” and, among other issues, said that Brewer improperly advised two different Boards of Selectmen about whether it could meet in executive session, Lawrence said.

“All this should be taken into account,” he said, to applause from some in the crowd.

Neither Lombardo, Neill or any members of the Board of Selectmen directly addressed Lawrence’s questions during the meeting. Neill made his comments in an interview following the meeting.

At its peak, there were about 20 residents in the audience at Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting at . Many of them left not long after the public comment period when Lawrence spoke.

Lombardo said he has extended an offer to any board members or member of the public to share “insights” with him about his decision to reappoint Brewer as town counsel – the attorney that works for the town.

“They want it to play out here,” Lombardo said, referring to the Memorial Room in Town Hall where the Board of Selectmen meet. “I am not interested in politicizing it.”

Neill said board members have spoken individually with Lombardo to tell him their feelings about whether Brewer should be reappointed.

“He knows where we all stand individually,” Neill said.

Ron Powell July 11, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Here is the concern that I would have if I were a Hamilton resident: a town employee approached the Board of Selectmen in November 2007 to report a widespread EMT training scandal in the police department, and the Board responded by hiring a consultant to investigate whether the town employee violated any criminal laws or department procedures. That consultant was Gerald Hayes, and his report exonerated the town employee of major wrongdoing while singling out Town Counsel specifically for major ethical violations. And the report ended by recommending more followup regarding Town Counsel's actions and also a thorough investigation into the EMT records scandal. Had the Board heeded the warning from the town employee instead of remaining headstrong, the Town would still have an ambulance operation and much embarrassment would have been avoided. Defiance for the sake of defiance hasn't worked. It's possible to be too clever by half and wind up with a decision that is too foolish by three-quarters. What if a town employee or resident approaches the town manager with details of another town scandal? Will he ignore it or respectfully deny any discussion of it? And what kind of advice will Town Counsel provide? Will it be different than the advice provided last time, or will the same mistakes be made? Everyone deserves a second chance -- heck, I am now on my fourth or fifth chance myself, but it's important to show that you've learned from your past mistakes.
Robert Foringer July 11, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Well said Ron Powell always informative [post]. With that said I just find it amazing Lombardo`s lack of people skills considering everything this town has been through. Thank God QE, Aron Burr, Jay Burnham, will step out and not follow the rest of the cows to the water...per say
SgtT July 11, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Are you a cop Jim and if so did you know Mike or Bobbie as a coworker? Plenty of police officers like me in this area knew both from their time with the sheriff and on the other police departments they both worked at. Both were liked by their peers for different reasons. Bobbie lost points during difficult times while Mike kept his integrity and honor until the end as proven by the reports written about him that back his story. Bobbie was a good police officer also but he was more of a social worker than a cop, not doing well under pressure. Bob was running the falsified ambulance training that Mike reported so Bobbie lovers disliked Mike for exposing that. Such a shame because both were good for Hamilton and are missed.
Jim July 15, 2012 at 05:44 PM
You make no sense Anne and seem to be a fruitcake.
my2cents July 27, 2012 at 03:44 PM
The community has had enough with the political adjendas and should up and show the distrust and anger towards people who are trying to prevent a recovery from the past years of poor management and acts by town workers. I believe that the failure to fire Donna Brewer and the act of promoting officer Karen Wallace are two more poor choices made by this town. Termination of town councel is justified based on the Urbelis report. I am unsure if this will be the end result because Hamilton has in the past 5 years made some incredibly stupid and costly mistakes. Still I think that the new report along with all the other reports concerning her actions in the Marchand affair show beyond a shadow of a doubt that she needs to go. I am further troubled by the promotion to the rank of sergeant of officer Karen Wallace. In all of the reports done into the Marchand affair it is obvious that Wallace's actions were malicious and dishonorable so when I learned that she had been promoted to sergeant this past month I was disapointed in the police department once again and felt unhappy that her poor behavior was rewarded with advancement. It is another example of poor management by Hamilton town government.

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