Powers Files Motion to Disqualify Town Counsel in Suit vs. Town; Cost to Town Now at $2,800–and Mounting
Michael Richard Powers has filed another motion in the lawsuit he’s pursuing against the town and the Board of Selectmen. Last week, Powers filed a motion in Stamford’s Superior Court to disqualify Wilton’s law firm Bercham Moses PC and one of its partners, Wilton town counsel Ira Bloom, from representing the Town, the BOS and the five BOS members in the case, citing conflict of interest.
At the same time that Powers is suing the town and the Board of Selectmen in Superior Court, he is also running for office in Wilton, hoping to be elected first selectman in the Nov. 5 municipal election.
In his suit, Powers is seeking a temporary and permanent injunction on 37 of the decisions made by the current BOS since the beginning of 2019, alleging that the BOS members did not strictly follow Roberts Rules of Order during their meeting proceedings. He filed the suit on Sept. 30, and the subsequent motion to disqualify the town’s legal representatives exactly one month later on Oct. 30.
In his motion to disqualify Bercham Moses, Powers says Bloom may need to offer testimony and be deposed as part of the case. He notes that Bloom has both counseled town officials as well as written pertinent documents (including the ‘FOIA Manuel’ [sic] and ‘Board Manuel’ [sic]). In his motion, Powers says those documents outline town procedures, ones which Bercham Moses attorneys later contradict in a motion they made to dismiss his suit.
“…in direct contradiction to the FOIA admissions from the Office of the First Selectwoman, the Defendants now assert in their Motion to Dismiss that the Town Board Manuel [sic] is NOT applicable to the Town of Wilton Boards and Committees.”
The motion town attorneys have filed is to dismiss the case outright. Ryan Driscoll, the Bercham Moses PC attorney representing the Town of Wilton, the BOS, and all five BOS members in this case, writes in his motion to dismiss that the town only uses that Guide as a “helpful reference.” He adds that the Guide states that, “Robert’s Rules of Order will provide the rules to assist Boards/Commission…” but have not been adopted as the “controlling authority for [Town] procedure.”
Driscoll argues that Powers doesn’t have legal standing to file for the injunction–in other words, because he isn’t a “proper party” to ask for a judge to resolve the dispute. In the motion he writes that unless someone has an individual or representative interest in the action, or a legal right or title in the subject matter, that person doesn’t have a legal right to sue in the matter.
Cost of Powers’ Suit to the Town
According to First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice, Powers’ suit has so far cost the town $2,808.00 in legal fees since Sept. 30. That amount only covers Bercham Moses’ motion to dismiss and an appearance by attorneys at a status conference in court on Oct. 28.
What’s ahead is that Bercham Moses must respond to Powers’ motion to disqualify the firm, and Powers must respond to Wilton’s motion to dismiss the case–and then each party will have an opportunity to file a reply to the other’s responses by an early December deadline. Then the attorneys will head to court for a hearing tentatively set for Dec. 16.
“It is reasonable to expect that our costs will have doubled by the December hearing. If the suit is not dismissed, we will proceed with Mr. Powers’ request for an injunction, which will involve even more significant costs,” Vanderslice says.