The Board of Selectmen‘s legal review and search for a new Town Counsel and law firm to represent the town took an unexpected turn at Monday night’s (Oct. 4) BoS meeting. Second selectman Michael Kaelin announced that he would be recusing himself from all activities associated with the search “for the time being” because the law firm where his brother,  is a partner was one of the six firms that answered the request for proposal (RFP) and submitted a proposal for consideration.

Kaelin said he would not participate in any discussion, deliberation or decision making as long as his brother’s firm is still a candidate.

Kaelin had been the selectman who initiated conversation about conducting a review of town counsel in December. Over the last several months, both he and fellow selectman Dave Clune (the two lawyers serving on the BoS) worked to draft the RFP and propose procedures for how the board would begin to screen applicants.

As a result, first selectman Lynne Vanderslice said she started to identify a potential replacement for Kaelin to participate in the search, noting that, “From the beginning I felt that we had to have a good number of attorneys involved in the process.” She narrowed her search to the land use boards, because they work extensively with town counsel. She suggested the Board consider Joshua Cole, a real estate attorney and elected member of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), serving as vice chair.

Clune noted that he was able to speak with Cole prior to the BoS meeting and discovered that Cole has extensive experience with the RFP process.

Cole was approved by Vanderslice, Clune and Lori Bufano to replace Kaelin, with Kaelin abstaining.

Selectmen Choose Prospective Law Firms to be Interviewed

Of the six firms that submitted proposals to be considered candidates, the selectmen selected five firms to interview:  Berchem, Moses & Devlin, PC; Carmody Torrance Sandak Hennessey; Cohen and Wolf; Owens, Schine and Nicola, PC; and Pullman and Comley.

The sixth firm–the only one not chosen–was Murtha Cullina, the firm for which Kaelin’s brother, Robert Kaelin, works. After the vote, Kaelin asked if that meant he could participate again. Clune and Vanderslice answered that they thought it should be discussed separately and perhaps be tabled, prompting Kaelin to chuckle as he said, “I’m not sure there’s anything for you all to discuss. I recused myself and I can put myself back in.”