Members named to Weston’s legal review committee

Dennis Tracey and others have been named to a new legal review committee. — Gregory Menti photo

Dennis Tracey and others have been named to a new legal review committee. — Gregory Menti photo

The Board of Selectmen has named members to the newly-formed legal review committee, designed to vet candidates for Weston’s town counsel.

Former Selectman Dennis Tracey will act as chair of the committee. Additional members are First Selectman Chris Spaulding, Town Administrator Jonathan Luiz, Land Use Director Tracy Kulikowski, Board of Finance Chairman Steve Ezzes and a yet-to-be-named member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

At the selectmen’s meeting on Thursday, Dec. 21, Spaulding said the Planning and Zoning representative will likely be whoever is selected as chairman at its upcoming meeting.

“We chose the major stakeholders who interact with town counsel on a regular basis,” said Spaulding. “We want their input on what is working and what isn’t working.

The committee will serve in an advisory role to the selectmen in their search for Weston’s town attorney. The town is currently represented by Cohen and Wolf, an area law firm with offices in Bridgeport and Westport.

Spaulding read the charge, or purpose, of the committee as put together by Luiz and himself.

“The charge of the committee is to solicit proposals from qualified law firms, review proposals received, interview the firms that appear to be the most capable of satisfying the town’s needs and to submit to the Board of Selectmen the committee’s findings and recommendations,” he said.

Spaulding said they drafted a charge that was vague enough to be open-ended but also promises a “deliverable” action.

Value

At a special meeting of the selectmen on Monday, Dec. 4, Tracey said the committee process is “useful” to ensure the town is getting “the best value and the best capabilities.”

In fiscal year 2016-17 Cohen and Wolf was budgeted a retainer expense of $97,500 and litigation expenses of $158,000. The current fiscal year retainer is also $97,500 with litigation expenses budgeted for $150,000.

According to Luiz, $60,100 of the allotted litigation expense of $158,000 was used in fiscal year 2016-17. Unspent funds were used to offset over-expenditures in other line items in the town budget.

In the current fiscal year, around $80,000 of the allotted $150,000 litigation budget has been used so far.

Timeline

Luiz said after the Planning and Zoning representative is appointed to the committee, the process to interview law firms will get underway.

“We’ll come together and agree on an RFP (request for proposal),” said Luiz. “Once we get the proposals from the law firms we will review them and invite three or four firms to come for an interview.”

Since the committee is advisory, the Board of Selectmen will ultimately decide the next step of action.

“The Board of Selectmen can decide from there what it wants to do, whether it’s to bring in finalists to interview,” said Luiz. “We can also make some phone calls and get some references and talk to communities that they serve, that are similar to us.”

Selectman Brian Gordon asked when this process can likely be wrapped up.

“If I had to speculate I think it would be reasonable for this to be done no later than April,” said Luiz.

Ultimately, the board decided to try to get the process done by the selectmen’s meeting on Thursday, April 19.

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