Brewer Reappointment as Town Counsel Gets Backing from Selectmen
Hamilton Town Counsel Donna Brewer's reappointment was been supported by the Board of Selectmen in a 3-2 vote on Monday night.
Town Manager Michael Lombardo narrowly received support from the Board of Selectmen on Monday for his decision to reappoint Town Counsel Donna Brewer.
Brewer, who has served as the town's attorney since 1998, is reappointed each year. And two years ago, she actually told the town she did not want to be reappointed. But at that time, as Lombardo was coming on board as the town’s first town manager, she was asked to stay on board to help with the transition.
Brewer’s reappointment became a hotly contested topic in recent weeks after the release of the so-called Urbelis report earlier this year. The report, by Boston attorney Thomas Urbelis, faulted Brewer’s handling of advice to the Board of Selectmen in 2007 as it went into several closed-door executive session meeting to discuss problems within the police department.
Lombardo said he did not plan to “explain away” Brewer’s advice in 2007, but spelled out his support for Brewer’s reappointment in a three-page memo to the Board of Selectmen, which is attached to this story as a PDF.
Members of the public, including two former Selectmen who served on the board in recent years, spoke out for about a half hour on Monday night at Hamilton Town Hall. David Carey and Bill Bowler, who were both on the board when Brewer offered the advice to go into executive session, said she should be reappointed. Carey said that the problems from that time were addressed when the town adopted the town manager form of government. Former Selectman Bill Bowler, an attorney himself, said Brewer’s advice has been “thoughtful” and timely” and “she addressed issues in a fair manner.”
Then members of the Board of Selectmen, one by one, spent about an hour offering their opinions.
David Neill, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said that state law is “very clear” that the power to reappoint the town counsel rests with the town manager, but that Lombardo asked the board to give advice on the decision.
“That is why we are here tonight,” Neill said.
In the end, Neill and board members Marc Johnson and Jennifer Scuteri backed Lombardo’s decision and selectmen Jeff Hubbard and Jeff Stinson said that the town’s legal services should be put out to bid.
Selectman Jennifer Scuteri, who is an attorney, said that the town’s first attorney in a lawsuit filed against the town by former Police Officer Michael Marchand, Leonard Kesten, was using a defense “was to throw everything on Donna Brewer.” Brewer, she said, is a “phenomenal lawyer” who recently successfully had a lower court decision overturned by the state Supreme Judicial Court.
Resident Jay Burnham, who brought the issue of Brewer’s reappointment to the board last month with a letter signed by about 20 residents, said that replacing Brewer would “completely heal the wounds” from the late 2000s.
Hubbard said, although he had coffee with Brewer to discuss her reappointment, had hoped the board would have heard directly from Brewer.
Hubbard said he favored putting it out to bid.
“I think she was part of the history of our town that people are looking to put behind us,” he said.
Neill said putting it out to bid would be a “quasi-solution” and suggested that town officials take a similar approach to the one taken by the police department, where “nobody was put out to bid.”
Instead, the Police Department – where one of his sons works as an officer - recognized that mistakes were made and put them behind them.
“They have put it behind them,” he said. “They have done what we are talking about tonight.”
Brewer has become a better attorney after the mistakes she made in 2007.
“She has learned from that,” Neill said.