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BCWA will re-interview for legal counsel

By   /   January 10, 2013  /   9 Comments

Sandra Mack

Sandra Mack

If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

The Bristol County Water Authority’s board of directors voted to do just that Wednesday night, when members invited all of the finalists in its search for legal counsel back for new interviews. Those interviews ended prior to Dec. 20, when the board hired Cameron and Mittleman to continue to provide legal advice; one of the firm’s attorneys, Sandra Mack of Bristol, has represented the BCWA for 20-odd years.

The board elected to revisit the issue after facing criticism that its awarding of the contract might have violated Rhode Island’s open meeting laws. The agenda for Dec. 20 included an item dubbed “RFP – Legal Services” under the “Business” section. At a Jan. 3 meeting of the BCWA, Barrington resident Gary Morse argued that the topic was listed with that same description for months prior to the meeting, without any vote to appoint legal counsel.

In addition, Barrington resident Jeff Black questioned the legality of a board meeting on Dec. 18 that was not posted with the Rhode Island Secretary of State. The board interviewed five potential legal firms that night.

After hearing the criticism, members said, the BCWA asked for advice from the Rhode Island Attorney General before inviting any top candidates who wish to return for another interview to do so. Though the law is unclear, an associate attorney from Cameron and Mittleman said, it would probably be a good idea to offer the re-interviews.

The new round of interviews, if needed, will take place next Wednesday, Jan. 16. If no finalists elect to attend, the BCWA will stick with Ms. Mack as its legal counsel.

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Warren Times Editor

9 Comments

  1. Ray Andrews says:

    The questions asked during the interviews should be made public, as well as a list of those unable to be interviewed being given less than a weeks notice.

  2. I agree Ray! They have made a point of saying that if the original parties are not interested in re-interviewing, then they will stay with their choice. One of the criteria in the evaluation process is financial borrowing/bonding documents preparation experience. This is a separate line item in the budget and doesn’t have any relevance to the day to day attorney duties, in my opinion. They can always use Ms. Mack as a consultant on borrowing/bond issues. This should not be part of the evaluation process, in my opinion.
    If they are trying to conserve they need to get out from under that $375.00 rate.
    Also, with a lawsuit pending in MA, it is my understanding that Ms. Mack is not qualified to practice in MA…..
    Why do I have the feeling that somehow, the original parties are “not going to be interested” in participating in a “mock” evaluation when they now know the deck is stacked?!

    I would like the names of the interested parties disclosed.

    Twenty years is enough! Time for a change!

  3. The associate attorney from Cameron and Mittleman read to us the comments of the Attorney General, and it was quite clear that the meetings were illegal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though the gave the AG’s office all of the particulars when asking for an opinion. They just asked the general rules, and tried to dance around them. They had two illegal meetings… and they were caught… red-handed! Let’s call a spade a spade! Ms Marchand had sent an email to the Blacks earlier (January 2) stating “All of the Board meetings have been noticed in accordance with the Open Meetings Law.” This was not a true statement. Mr. Klepper stated at the Warren meeting that he had obtained a legal opinion that they were legal, but would not disclose the name of the attorney. And, lo and behold, when push comes to shove… there were actually illegal meetings… Imagine that!

  4. There is no need to re-interview the candidates for legal counsel. That part was not done illegally. This is a ploy to get out of redoing the meeting that decided the outcome. Would you come back and interview again for a job that you knew was awarded to someone else but they were re-doing it because of a technicality? Of course not! And the board knows that. They have set this up so that if the original applicants choose to not participate in this orchestrated event then they can just go with their one true love, Sandra Mack. What needs to be redone is the actual discussion meeting and the vote, with input and questions from the public.
    How about contacting all of the finalists and letting them know that the board is reconsidering their decision and would like to know if they are still interested?

    Herein lies one of the reasons that BCWA is so afraid of the PUC. The PUC scrutinizes every penny and every decision when deliberating on approving a rate increase. Yes, maybe it would cost $100,000 for a rate increase… but it would be worth every penny to have someone on the ratepayers side checking all the facts and figures. Do you think the PUC would think highly of a NEW union contract guaranteeing no layoffs when the plan is to close the plant? I doubt it!

  5. The BCWA meeting on December 18, 2012 was illegal because the board had discussion and made a decision (to rehire Mrs. Mack) that was not properly noticed and was not done in a proper public meeting.

    BCWA vote to rehire Mrs. Mack on December 20, 2012 is null & void because the board did not give proper notice of this agenda item of this public meeting.

    BCWA was caught doing these improper things.

    Mrs. Marchand wrongly said BCWA was right. (not true)

    The Blacks appealed that decision.

    Then BCWA told the public they’d seek advice from the AG. Looks like BCWA failed to disclose that they’d been caught on video “discussing” the candidates at the illegal Dec 18 meeting.

    Now that BCWA is caught, they say they will redo the interviews in an Executive Session of a public meeting IF the other candidates want to come back and participate.

    But that’s not the proper remedy for the improper actions that are now null & void.

    The proper remedy is to notify all of the candidates in writing that they will be interviewed in a public meeting (with proper prior public notice) and give each an opportunity to have his/her interview in public session (with proper prior public notice) rather than Executive Session. Or, at the very least, contact all of the candidates and advise them that a new vote is being taken and it would be a good idea if they were available to answer questions.

    Then, the board (after proper public notice) meets to discuss and vote in public.

    BCWA meeting on December 18, 2012 was illegal because the board had discussion and made a decision (to rehire Mrs. Mack) that was not properly noticed and was not done in a proper public meeting.

    BCWA vote to rehire Mrs. Mack on December 20, 2012 is null & void because the board did not give proper notice of this agenda item of this public meeting.

    BCWA was caught doing these improper things.

    Mrs. Marchand wrongly said BCWA was right.

    The Blacks appealed that decision.

    Then BCWA told the public they’d seek advice from the AG. Looks like BCWA failed to disclose that they’d been caught on video “discussing” the candidates at the illegal Dec 18 meeting.

    Now that BCWA is caught, they say they will redo the interviews in an Executive Session of a public meeting if the other candidates want to come back and participate.

    But that’s not the proper remedy for the improper actions that are now null & void.

    The proper remedy is to notify all of the candidates in writing that they will be interviewed in a public meeting (with proper prior public notice) and give each an opportunity to have his/her interview in public session (with proper prior public notice) rather than Executive Session.

    Then, the board (after proper public notice) meets to discuss and vote in public.

    Even if NONE of the candidates want to be re-interviewed, the vote must be taken again. It was an illegal vote!!!

    Please call your town council or BCWA representative and tell they you would like a proper, legal vote for the LEGAL RFP!!!

    This board continues to do things that are not legal, and continues to withhold information from the ratepayers. When a ratepayer asked if the Anawan Club was suing BCWA Mr. Klepper replied that they had not been served.. leading the ratepayer to come to the conclusion that there was no lawsuit pending. Mr. Klepper KNEW that papers were filed on Dec. 18th. a more truthful response would have been “Yes, but we have not been served yet.” Makes all the difference in the world.

    I want to let everyone know that Mr. Palmieri of Warren and Mr. Fitta of Barrington did their best to caution the board about a re-appointment of Ms. Mack. The video (of the illegal meeting) can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKj7mJ8LEVg

    The B&E report (that taxpayers paid for) suggested that the plant should be closed and the premise should become a distribution center if they were going to have a chance at operating in the black. This report was regarded as “inconclusive” and “not thorough” by Ms. Marchand at the Tri-town meeting.

    How long are you, the ratepayer, going to let this go on????

  6. Also, after viewing the rating sheet, Ms. Mack would certainly score very low on Breadth of Experience (0-35), which includes dealing with MA (cannot practice there), Rate setting experience (they pay a consultant for that), operating under RI Open Meeting Law (Quite a number of failures there, including the $65,000 fight) and Processing responses under FOIA… no star there either.

    Her bond experience may be good, but bond issuance could always be a separate issue and a separate rfp.

    How many points could she possibly accrue in Breadth of Experience?? 10? 15?

  7. Jack Baillargeron says:

    Sally McDonald, associate counsel for the BCWA from Cameron & Mittleman, said she spoke to Michael Fields, the authority in the Attorney General’s Office on the state Open Meetings Law. She said the law regarding interviews “is unclear.”

    But erring on the side of caution, she said, the board should probably conduct the interviews again.

    As usual the legal eagle team the BCWA used cannot read a simple open meeting law any better than the BCWA can.

    The great thing abot the law is that it is not full of so called legal mombo jumbo. It is sinple and easy for the average person to understand.

    Lets look at what is unclear about interviews and voting at the meeting on them shall we.

    Page 12 Open Meetings Law

    A violation of the OMA was upheld in Tanner v. Town Council of the Town of East Greenwich, 880 A.2d 784 (R.I. Supreme Court, 2005), based on the totality of the circumstances, when notice for a town council meeting misled the public by advertising that only interviews would be conducted, however, votes were subsequently taken on the interviewed candidates at the meeting.

    Does anyone see something unclear in that!!!!!!

    Heck no; it is straight forwar and took 38 seconds to find reading from page 1 of the law down to page 12 where this is. So this associate that would b handling the MA problem of Anawan since Mack cannot practice in MA according to the board, is confused on page 12 of this simple law?

  8. Jack Baillargeron says:

    Though in booklet for where this law is 86 little pages; when assembled in proper word format it equals about 28 pages. This is no health care law nor is it even a small book. It is about the size of your average childrens book to lean how to read.

    There lays the problem that has plauged this BCWA for so long. This my way or the highway, the ratepayer be damned, we cannot find the records, the records are lost, we never said that, we need a legal opinion, we need a study, and on and on and on.

    Dissolve this ineffective BCWA that has accomplished one thing and one thing only. The total collapse of a business from treating and supplying water to a pump and distribution station with no end in sight for the cost to run the place even though it is no longer a producer of the product they were mandated to provide.

    It however wants to do unrealistic hiring of yet more employee’s and equipment that is not needed except to increase the number of employee’s and cost liabilities even more. disgusting to say the least.

  9. Let’s not lose sight of the irony here. The ILLEGAL meeting was to vote on a LEGAL RFP!!!! Doesn’t get much worse than that!

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