EAST PROVIDENCE — The first real salvos of the 2012 General Election locally were lobbed over the last week, and were done so fittingly concerning arguably the most controversial and pressing issue facing one of East Providence’s residential sections.
In a wide-ranging and, at points, tersely-worded press release directed at his opponent in the East Providence City Council Ward I election, Edward Lynch recently called out James Briden about his actions regarding the contentious TLA-Pond View issue that has gripped Rumford for the last several years.
The candidates are at odds over Mr. Briden’s efforts as the East Providence City Solicitor between 2008-2010. Mr. Lynch chided his opponent for his perceived lack of initiative on issues related to the disputed recycling plant while he served the city as its legal representative.
Mr. Lynch wrote in his release, “As a candidate for Ward I City Council and a former state representative, I still have several questions regarding Pond View’s inception into all our backyards. My opponent, a former city solicitor, never complained about Pond View when he worked for the city of East Providence.
“Astoundingly, he waited until he was released from his prominent position as solicitor by the present city council to begin his attack of the facility and build a platform against the city that he once represented. Most recently, he attended a city council meeting and recommended that a new lawyer (costly environmental attorney) be hired to fight Pond View.”
In response, Mr. Briden said the on-going Pond View legal battle began before he became City Solicitor and he believes he conducted himself in a pro-active manner.
Mr. Briden said, “My opponent’s statement that as Solicitor I never complained about Pond View could not be further from the truth. As the city’s attorney, I worked diligently on behalf of East Providence in strongly opposing the expansion of TLA Pond View. This included the numerous DEM hearings where the city’s experts and residents testified against the company’s application to expand its operation and the lawsuit filed in Superior Court by East Providence and the Rhode Island Attorney General.
“My role as Solicitor in the Pond View case is well known to residents, documented as a matter of public record and requires only a minimum amount of effort to discover. Before making such statements in the future, it is my hope that my opponent will do at least a little bit of research beforehand. The public expects no less from candidates running for elected office.
“My opponent is also factually incorrect when he states that I recently recommended that the city hire an environmental lawyer for the Pond View case. As a resident, I addressed the City Council on Sept. 4, 2012, and asked the city to have an outside review of the present zoning appeal by an attorney recognized as an expert in zoning law. As this is probably the most important zoning case in the history of our city, it is wise to maximize our chances of winning this appeal. A victory now will actually save East Providence money as it will fortify our position relative to any future legal battle.”
Mr. Lynch later escalated his argument, noting the numerous cases of litigation the city has and continues to find itself involved in.
He wrote, “The taxpayers of East Providence should be fed up with the past council and school committee decisions to hire outside lawyers to fight issues that has put our city further in debt for years to come. For example, how much have we spent on outside legal counsel to fight Pond View? That is the job for a competent city solicitor, not costly outside lawyers. ”
Mr. Lynch cited the well over $1 million the city has paid to Attorney Dan Kinder, who continues to represent East Providence in legal squabbles with its teachers. In addition, Mr. Lynch referenced the controversial firing a few years ago of then-city building inspector Al Quattrucci, who recently successfully appealed his job loss and who is expected to receive a large settlement as well as have the opportunity to return to his former position.
“Let’s stop paying for outside lawyer fees when we have the ability to hire a professional city solicitor and legal team,” Mr. Lynch added. “Let the city’s legal team direct the city council and school committee on important issues to start rebuilding our city together.”
Mr. Briden countered his recommendation to hire an outside environmental lawyer to work with the Solicitor’s office on the Pond View case was proper and because of it East Providence is in a stronger position legally. Spurred by the efforts of community organizers, including Mr. Briden, Pond View has been shut down by its receiver.
Mr. Briden continued, “By contrast, from my opponent’s comments it is clear that he would have been against hiring an environmental law attorney to work with the city in opposing the expansion of Pond View. This would have been a mistake and might have enabled Pond View to expand its operation.
“When evaluating a municipality’s legal representation, one must not oversimplify this issue. It is necessary to have a basic understanding of the practice of law, to review the models that other cities have used successfully and to accomplish this objective in a cost effective manner.”