The Bristol County Water Authority has new legal representation.
The board of directors voted 6-1 with one abstentionWednesday night to hire the firm of Keough and Sweeney.
Director Ray Palmieri, of Warren, nominated the firm. He cited the group’s experience including representation of other Rhode Island utilities. Mr. Palmieri also pointed to the fact that two members of the firm are licensed to practice law in Massachusetts and he said the group’s rates were “very competitive.”
The vote came following the resignation of long-time BCWA legal counsel Cameron and Mittleman. Board chairman Allan Klepper said he received a letter earlier that evening from Cameron and Mittleman partner Sandra Mack thanking the board for its support and the opportunity to serve the BCWA.
The resignation was effective as of Feb. 27.
Mr. Klepper said it wasn’t the first time Ms. Mack had attempted to tender a resignation. Mr. Klepper said there have been other resignation attempts in recent months though he did not accept the offers.
“We’re going to weather this storm,” Mr. Klepper said when asked how he responded to the earlier resignation attempts.
Ms. Mack could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday morning.
Director John Jannitto, of Warren, abstained from voting out of respect for Ms. Mack who he said did an outstanding job for the BCWA. Mr. Jannitto also said Ms. Mack was treated “shabbily” in recent years.
Director Frank Sylvia, of Bristol, cast the sole dissenting vote. Director Paul Bishop, of Bristol, was not present.
The vote settled a process months in the making. The board issued a request for legal services proposal earlier this year before narrowing down a pool of candidates and interviewing a group of finalists. The board vote to keep Cameron and Mittleman on Dec. 20 though the group decide to re-visit the issue amid concerns the interviews had not been posted and the vote itself wasn’t advertised correctly.
The board re-interviewed three of the firms one month later and once again voted to retain Cameron and Mittleman by 4-3 margin. Following the vote, however, the board learned it needed at least five affirmative votes to name a legal firm leading to Thursday’s vote.
Keough and Sweeney will have plenty of work with the BCWA. The agency is currently in the early stages of exploring a potential connection with Pawtucket. The BCWA is also facing a lawsuit in Massachusetts relating to maintenance of the Anawan Dam.