Selectmen Chairman Says Town Counsel Decision Does Not Rest With Board
As town residents push the Board of Selectmen to address the issue of whether to reappoint town counsel Donna Brewer, the town manager and chairman of the Board of Selectmen says state law gives the town manager total control to name the town attorney.
The power to appoint the town counsel sits solely with Town Manager Michael Lombardo.
And that’s why the Board of Selectmen, after hearing from residents two weeks in a row pushing for the board to address the issue, is not taking up the topic of whether Donna Brewer should continue as town counsel, according to Board Chairman David Neill.
She is eligible for reappointment yearly on July 1 and Lombardo decided to keep her on board.
Neill said typically he prefers to addresses issues head-on at Board of Selectmen meetings.
“With this, we don’t have the authority to make the decision,” Neill said in comments following Monday night’s meeting.
Neill, who was most recently elected in May and immediately named chairman, was also a selectman in the 1990s when Brewer first became town attorney. He pointed to a section of the “Special Act” that established Hamilton’s Town Manager form of government in 2009 that allows the town manager to appoint all town “officers.” Others, such as department heads, can undergo the review the Board of Selectmen. But the hiring and firing of "officers" rest soley with the town manager.
The Special Act removed the hiring of the town counsel from the “political arena,” Neill said.
For the second week in a row on Monday night, residents brought their concerns about Brewer to the board. This time, Rock Maple Avenue resident Jack Lawrence told the board that he had hoped to see the topic of Brewer’s reappointment on the board’s agenda.
“I don’t see it this evening and I think it is really something that needs to be discussed,” Lawrence said.
Later, Lawrence said several town reports, including a report by Boston attorney Thomas Urbelis, were “scathing” and, among other issues, said that Brewer improperly advised two different Boards of Selectmen about whether it could meet in executive session, Lawrence said.
“All this should be taken into account,” he said, to applause from some in the crowd.
Neither Lombardo, Neill or any members of the Board of Selectmen directly addressed Lawrence’s questions during the meeting. Neill made his comments in an interview following the meeting.
At its peak, there were about 20 residents in the audience at Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting at Hamilton Town Hall. Many of them left not long after the public comment period when Lawrence spoke.
Lombardo said he has extended an offer to any board members or member of the public to share “insights” with him about his decision to reappoint Brewer as town counsel – the attorney that works for the town.
“They want it to play out here,” Lombardo said, referring to the Memorial Room in Town Hall where the Board of Selectmen meet. “I am not interested in politicizing it.”
Neill said board members have spoken individually with Lombardo to tell him their feelings about whether Brewer should be reappointed.
“He knows where we all stand individually,” Neill said.