23 Aug 2014
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Letter to the Editor: Hamilton Town Counsel Should Resign

Jack Lawrence of Hamilton, a former co-chairman of the Government Study Committee, writes to suggest that the Hamilton town counsel should resign.

Letter to the Editor: Hamilton Town Counsel Should Resign

To the Editor:

Having been away from July 19 until Aug. 5, I returned to read The Chronicle’s Aug. 2 headline ”Brewer prevails, reappointed town counsel.”

, it would seem that what was voted affirmatively was the principle that the Town Manager should be able to pick his team. That was a good thing. It is the actions of that team - the department heads and professional staff of the town government - which will determine how his job performance is rated. If he is subjected to the sort of micromanagement , how can he be held accountable?

In setting this up, the Government Study Committee (GSC) consciously gave the position that authority with the countervailing balance of allowing for confirmation by the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and stipulating that the Manager’s performance be evaluated annually in open session.

This raises the question as to when will that annual evaluation occur? The GSC found that there was a practice in Hamilton government of never formally evaluating anyone. The GSC placed a high priority on changing this tradition.

That said, one should also note that the 3-2 vote was hardly a vote of confidence for the actions of Town Counsel. Unfortunately, it was her role in the police debacle that was the focus of discussion. Certainly, was clear that she bore considerable responsibility for that costly misadventure, both in her direct participation and in her advice to the BOS on the use of executive sessions and other matters. That alone should have been sufficient grounds to question whether she should have been reappointed. However, that is only part of the story.

As far back as 2006, the town was rebuked by the Attorney General’s office for mis-using executive sessions and there was the matter of the several hundred thousand dollars spent on litigation with the DEP and Ipswich River Watershed Association over water allotments, which accomplished nothing.

The immediate concern is , however, have been going on for years. Canter Brook is in the Groundwater Overlay Protection District (GPOD) due to the proximity of the town’s water supply off Lake Drive. GPOD would allow 6-7 units on the site. Town Counsel prepared a memo for the Planning Board stating that GPOD could be the base to which the density bonuses set forth in the Elder Housing bylaw (EHB) could be added. This assault on common sense was justified in the memo by saying this “harmonized” the two by-laws despite the fact that the EHB specifically acknowledged the “special sensitivities” of GPOD. It would seem simple logic would tell you densities greater than those allowed by GPOD could not be justified since they would pose an unacceptable risk of pollution to our water supply.

So here we are with a reappointed town counsel in whom we have . We also have a BOS vote that scraped the scab off the wound of the police scandal rather than letting it heal. How do we resolve this?

I suggest the solution is clear and simple. Town Counsel should again do the honorable thing and resign. This time it should be accepted and we can move on to address the pressing challenges before us.

Jack Lawrence

Former co-chairman, Government Study Committee 

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