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After Three Years, Hamilton Selectmen Release 'Urbelis Report'

A report compiled for the Hamilton Board of Selectmen three years ago, as it was dealing with issues within the police department, was made public for the first time on Thursday.

The so-called Urbelis report, kept secret under the protection of attorney-client privilege for nearly three years, saw the light of day for the first time on Thursday.

The report was commissioned in 2009 by the then-Hamilton Board of Selectmen to examine the actions of Town Counsel Donna Brewer as it related to the problems the town was having with the police department at the time.

And on Thursday, Brewer herself said she had seen the report for the first time that day. Late Thursday afternoon she said she had not had a chance to read the full 40-page report and did not have any comment in response to the report.

“I was only given it today,” she said.

A complete copy of the report is attached to this story as a PDF.

Thomas Urbelis, a Boston attorney who serves as town counsel in Andover and North Andover, was brought in to evaluate Brewer’s actions as the town was embroiled in a controversy involving the police department.

The board’s decision in 2009 to keep it secret was determined to be allowable – Urbelis was hired to perform legal services for the town and state law allows the document to be protected under attorney-client privilege in the case of an ongoing lawsuit.

“The board at the time, for whatever reason, said it would be protected by attorney-client privilege,” Town Manager Michael Lombardo said on Thursday.

The case involved former Police Officer Michael Marchand who had sued the town, alleging and prevented him from working. He went on paid leave and later resigned in 2010.

The case . It was paid by the town’s insurance company, Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association.

The Urbelis report remained one of the only documents yet to be released related to the issues that surrounded the in 2006-2008. Executive session minutes from Hamilton Board of Selectmen meetings during the past few years, where the Marchand case was discussed as it was ongoing, will also be released in the coming weeks, according to Lombardo. His assistant is going through all of the Board of Selectmen’s unreleased executive session minutes, he said.

“I expect it to be released in the next few weeks,” he said.

The Board of Selectmen voted to release the Urbelis report when it met on May 21 and it was first made public on Thursday.

“They all felt it should be made available to the public,” Lombardo said.

The total cost to complete the report was not immediately available on Thursday.

The report is critical of Brewer for, among other reasons, bringing concerns about Marchand to the Board of Selectmen in 2007 during executive sessions that were invoked because the board said it was discussing potential litigation, when there was no evidence that litigation was imminent, as defined by the law.

Urbelis said Brewer should have know the issues did not qualify to be brought to the board, both because she was the presenting the issues to the board herself and because as the board's legal counsel she is the one charged with advising the board about proper use of executive session.

It is also critical of Brewer for not bringing complaints about Marchand – brought to her by Officer Karen Wallace - to the board until four months after she received it.

And Urbelis also found fault with the board itself, which entered executive session multiple times for what it said was the threat of litigation, where Urbelis found that there was no real threat that a lawsuit would be filed about the issues that were being discussed.

On Thursday, Lombardo said he stands by Brewer as town counsel and defended the decision to reject Brewer’s request to not be reappointed as town counsel two years ago and instead keep her on as the town’s attorney.

“With all the transition and charges that we continue to work through, I thought it would be disruptive to build a relationship with a new town counsel,” he said.

Despite Lombardo’s opinion, he said there has not been a final decision on whether to possibly bid out legal services. And he said some members of the Board of Selectmen want to discuss how the board handles its legal services.

“That’s a discussion that’s going to be coming very soon,” he said.

But nothing in the Urbelis report, Lombardo said, showed that Brewer acted as a ”rogue agent” during the time in question.

“There’s no smoking gun I could really point to,” Lombardo said.

Brewer, for her part, said she hopes to continue serving as the town’s attorney. She is appointed annually by the Town Manager with a confirmation vote by the Board of Selectmen.

“I’m willing, able and happy to keep serving the town,” said Brewer, who lives in Hamilton. “I enjoy the work and I will serve as long as the town wants me.”

Lombardo said Brewer is paid through a retainer agreement that covers "the bulk of the work that she does for us.”

Brewer’s rate is “very reasonable” and the town would pay much more if Brewer charged for everything she did, Lombardo said.

Current Board of Selectmen Chairman Jennifer Scuteri, who had just been elected when the report was compiled, said she had no comment and that Selectmen had voted to have Lombardo speak for the board.

Jay Burnham June 01, 2012 at 10:19 AM
The Urbelis Report is one of three (along with the Hayes Report and the Pomeroy Report) that clearly point out acting Town Counsel Brewer's inappropriate and unprofessional conduct. Once that behavior was discovered and made public, she attempted to resign...as she should have. As new Town Manager, however, Michael Lombardo requested she remain until he got his feet on the ground. With the passage of two years and the release of the formerly confidential Urbelis Report, it is now time to let her go. To suggest that her fees are "very reasonable" as a reason to keep her on clearly ignores the effects Ms. Brewer's actions have cost our town...not only in lost revenue and efforts to defend her actions, but also in reputation. Her dismissal is long overdue. Read the attached report, which includes excerpts from the Pomeroy and Hayes reports, and decide if this is the attorney you want representing you and your town.
L.S. June 01, 2012 at 11:01 AM
What more could she and the two police officers that were helping her have done to drag this town down? The road of legal woes and embarrassment Hamilton had to be subjected to is unprecedented and the Urbelis Report puts the blame where it deservingly should fall on the attorney for this town and those two police officers. Police officers and a lawyer for a town continually working against the selectmen and the police chief to have a police officer fired is insane. And to make it worse it is obvious that information into conduct that they accused the officer of was wrong. The policeman was proven by that time to be totally innocent of what they said he did even by their own private investigations of him so why would they continue to look into him? Did they have a personal hatred of him? It makes absolutely no sense. Is there anyone that may understand the inner politics of why this happened and why are these people still employed in Hamilton?
Anne Sweeney June 01, 2012 at 10:59 PM
"Is there anyone that may understand the inner politics of why this happened and why are these people still employed in Hamilton ?" With Unemployment the way it is, why haven't we cleaned house and hired new, passonate and qualified people to replace them ?
Very Concerned June 02, 2012 at 12:49 AM
The people this report faults are Wallace,Brewer and Hatfield however they are still employed and it is obvious the town knew about this report for years. How can that be? This report seems very well done to me, isn't it enough to have the three of these workers fired for what they caused?
Anne Sweeney June 02, 2012 at 08:25 PM
I have never seen a town more endowed with intelligent people, yet speechless, who cower as sheepish followers, marching to the beat of the Pied Piper, promising them everything and cannot even deliver on transparency. It's a shame that such a town, having such a rich heritage and producing national leaders of prominence allow the meek, the ignorant, the weak and the wicked impose their minority views upon the majority. As Paula Cole sings "Where Have all the Cowboys Gone".
leigh keyser June 02, 2012 at 09:31 PM
The town manager seems to ignore the fact that a lot time has past and its time to make changes in who is the town counsel. The reason to keep her on has long since past and a new person needs to hired to taken care of town business. I would hope that a changes happens very shortly.
R. Allen June 02, 2012 at 10:42 PM
To keep Ms. Brewer employed because a town manager wants to gets acclimated to his job is a stupid reason to keep her working after a report like this. From reading the report it was clear to me she didn't give good advice or act properly. It is mentioned that she was the head of a secret improper investigation and we know that ended in a costly lost lawsuit. So the new town manager wanting her advice makes no sense to me. As a new person coming to run the town I would remove any bad employees right away.
Anne Sweeney June 03, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Obviously we made a bad choice for Town Manager. Like Wayne Marquis, who has done a reasonably good job in Danvers. What is needed would be a professional who hits the job running, dismisses the past and runs with the future, a trail blazer who knows what he or she is doing. Not a neophyte, that would choose to follow rather than lead. The fact that he has kept these people on, shows by example that he wants a comfort zone, a buffer to insulate him from responsibility. If we put a couple of good apples in a barrel filled with bad ones, do the bad ones affect the good apples ? Do the good apples change the bad apples into fresh new ones ? Common sense needs to govern Hamilton, not over educated Harvard Derelicts who do nothing more than to erode our socio and economic welfare, only to compromise the heritage and fabric of our society once fought for and preserved by former generations.
Alex June 04, 2012 at 02:27 AM
I have read Urbelis and all other reports and here are my opinions. Town manager Lombardo had no choice but to keep Donna Brewer working here because it would have hurt Hamilton in the legal case to let her go, so don't blame him. Urbelis like the reports on the Marchand incidents all have good information. They show inappropriate action by police officers Karen Wallace, Arthur Hatfield and town attorney Donna Brewer to have ex police officer Michael Marchand fired but Marchand was shown in all reports to have been a really good officer. He was accused by Wallace, Brewer and Hatfield of misconduct but he was cleared of those accusations by private investigations that said they lied or exaggerated fact. Pomeroy and Hayes reports both show Marchand had done nothing inappropriate however the others exaggerated and fabricated complaints about his behavior for personal reasons. Marchand seems to have been a very good police officer from the reports. Aggressive and tough but not the monster the others wanted him to appear. From the reports Marchand is a good man. This is shown when Marchand's brothers baby was kidnapped and taken to Mexico. Marchand actually went to Mexico to try and bring home the child. People either respected his actions or felt he risked his life to try to go get the child home but either way he was certainly no threat to Hamilton as the others made him out to be. The people who lied and hurt this town should now be removed from their jobs.
Bob Gray June 04, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Just read the Urbelis report. From what I can read it looks like Attorney Brewer and officer Wallace were conducting their own investigation into the Marchant case. Brewer made several mistakes. First she should have reported her findings to the Selectmen immediately and let them decide where to take the case. Second, she should not have encouraged officer Wallace to continue conducting an investigation on her own. I think the Selectmen and Town manager have no choice but to not renew her contract when it is up in June. From what I have heard there is another local attorney ready, willing and able to take over immediately. The Selectmen have a duty to the taxpayers to release Attorney Brewer from her duties as town attorney.
Michelle Bailey June 05, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Clearly, you've never met Mr. Lombardo. He is not a neophyte by any stretch. He has hit the ground running and is a trail blazer. Hamilton should thank their lucky stars.
Edward King June 06, 2012 at 07:47 AM
I lived in Hamilton for many years until moving recently. I have followed this interesting case and upon my returning home from a trip tonight I was happy to read an e-mail that this report was out and I just had to read it. I am happy yet surprised the town released it after all this time! It's a very informative and upsetting look into how people working for the town caused the Mike Marchand lawsuit. I also disagree with selectman who told the townsfolk that this report was not well done by the investigator. This report on the contrary looks very well done to me. I think it just reaffirms what the reports I have read already indicated, that Mike Marchand was a victim in this and deserved to win the money he got. I agree with others in these postings that it is time to tell the people who still are still working to leave now. I know Art Hatfield, Butch Cullen and Donnie Dupray left their jobs because they faced being fired if they didn't agree to resign immediately and that Bill Bowler was not reappointed because of this. Now Karen Wallace and Donna Brewer should be given the same choices. This is a step in the right direction in my mind.
Jay Burnham June 11, 2012 at 11:39 AM
If one looks closely at Ms. Brewer's history of representation of the Town of Hamilton, one will find multiple instances of what can be deemed poor advice and counsel. For example: Read the court decision posted here (PDF) by Justice Mark V. Green where he openly criticizes Ms. Brewer's support of "a roving authority to limit density" in her defense of a Hamilton Planning Board decision to deny approval of a buildable parcel of land that clearly should have been approved. The board's decision was annulled because it was "beyond the board's authority"...something one would expect Town Counsel to know before wasting time and money on a suit that was summarily dismissed by Judge Green.

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