The Bristol County Water Authority board of directors voted 4-3 Wednesday night to retain Cameron and Mittleman as legal counsel.
Cameron and Mittleman partner Sandra Mack was one of three attorneys interviewed by the board of directors prior to its vote. The board previously voted 5-2 in favor of Cameron and Mittleman but decided to re-visit the issue following allegations that the move violated state open meetings law.
The board initially interviewed five firms following a request for proposals issued earlier this year. Two of the firms, including Cameron and Mittleman, agreed to return for interviews in executive session Wednesday while attorney Michael McElroy opted for public questioning. Another of the five finalists reportedly notified the board it could not attend Wednesday’s re-interviews while the final candidate reportedly did not respond to the offer.
Director John Jannitto, of Warren, motioned to re-appoint Cameron and Mittleman.
“I’m convinced we have good, competent legal service,” he said.
Paul Bishop, of Bristol, seconded the motion. He said the firm has done an “excellent job” in his year-and-a-half on the board. He also stated Bristol’s two other directors – Joseph DeMelo and Frank Sylvia – had told him they supported keeping Cameron and Mittleman. Mr. DeMelo and Mr. Sylvia were not in attendance Wednesday.
BCWA Executive Director Pamela Marchand said she supported Cameron and Mittleman given the firm’s knowledge of the BCWA;s history and issues currently facing the agency. Ms. Marchand said it would be “very difficult” for a new firm to come in.
Board of directors chairman Allan Klepper, of Barrington, agreed. He said Ms. Mack expressed the “most thorough grasp” of issues facing the agency.
Barrington director Kevin Fitta, however, supported a change in counsel. He said any organization should consider periodic changes in professional services. Mr. Fitta also said the BCWA has some “public perception” issues that could be alleviated with a change in legal counsel and other firms had “considerably lower rates.”
Director Robert Allio, of Barrington, agreed while director Ray Palmieri, of Warren, said he couldn’t support the firm because of cost and the potential that associates with less experience would be handling BCWA legal issues in Massachusetts.
A few members of the public also called for a change citing rates and and past issues, such as open meetings concerns.
In the end, the firm was approved 4-3 with Mr. Fitta, Mr. Palmieri and Mr. Allio voting nay.
Ms. Mack said her firm operated under a $60,000 cap this year, which was met in November. She said the firm’s effective rate by the end of this fiscal year in February will likely be about $235 an hour, lower than a rate of more than $300 per hour referenced during the meeting.
Ms. Mack also said BCWA matters in Massachusetts will be handled by a senior partner at the firm and not an associate.