HANSON — The Board of Selectmen Tuesday night voted 4-1 to approve a policy under which access to the town’s law firm — Blatman, Bobrowski & Mead LLC — by individual selectmen requires approval only by the Board of Selectmen’s chairman or vice chairman.
The town administrator would be notified of such requests, but will not have the power to approve or deny them.
Selectman Don Howard dissented, saying he has never had a problem going through a town administrator, and he has worked with three in his seven years on the board.
“I don’t see why we need a policy,” Howard said, noting that is why taxpayers fund the town administrator’s position.
“We never had a firm, written policy on access to town counsel,” Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young said, explaining a new request for legal services form he had drafted. “At least there’s a record that this happened because now we can get into the billing process.”
He said the request form represents an internal control system key to a well-run accounting system.
Town Administrator Ron San Angelo countered that the form stems from a disagreement between him and Young on the wording of the Town Administrator Act, and sought joint approval from the chairman and administrator on the forms.
“This is an interpretation kind of issue,” San Angelo said. “Like all good pieces of legislation, it’s debatable.”
He argued that his job is to act as liaison between town counsel, the Board of Selectmen and affected town departments or officials,’ other than selectmen’s, requests.
“I don’t believe the chairman, nor any single member of the Board of Selectmen, has the direct power to go to town counsel,” he said. “That has to be done in conjunction with the town administrator. … The power to go to a town attorney rests with the entire Board of Selectmen, not any individual selectman.”
San Angelo said he has never refused any selectman’s request to refer to the town attorney if there is a need for it and if there was a concern over need he would work with the chairman to solve it.
“I’m supposed to be the coordinator of that and to know what legal funds are being spent,” he said.
Selectman James McGahan said San Angelo’s reliance on the phrase “I believe” regarding the issue required an opinion from Town Counsel Jason Talerman, who attended the meeting.
“I really don’t care how you get to me or how a board of selectmen wants to access me,” he said. “I care that it’s clear and that everyone is informed.”
Talerman has worked with more than 100 of the state’s 351 cities and towns and there are “just as many” policies on how to contact town counsel.
While he thinks San Angelo is a liaison to town counsel, he doesn’t see a prohibition of contact by the selectmen chairman. For individual selectmen to consult him, he said there does need to be a policy.
“You just make a policy on that — I’ll follow the policy,” he said. “When I’m contacted by a single member I have to think to myself, ‘Is that reflective of the entire board, or what at least a majority, says?’”
Two residents also weighed in on the issue.
“The town administrator reports to this board,” Richard Hickey, 43 Morton St. said. “He’s asking for full authority. He’s not an elected person in this town. …He does not need to cosign on anything. He works for you folks. He will be in the electronic loop.”
Mark Vess, 303 High St., agreed.
“I’ve never understood it that the Board of Selectmen could not go directly to legal counsel to address any concerns that they had,” said Vess, who served as a selectmen in the past. “I heard what you are trying to do tonight and I could not agree with you more.”
In other business, the board voted 5-0 to approve appointment of Jared M. Meegan to the Hanson Police Department. The appointment of Meegan, now a member of the Wellfleet Police Department is effective Monday, May 18, but he may start later if his services are required in Wellfleet over Memorial Day weekend.
The hiring process began last August when more than 40 people applied for the position, according to Police Chief Michael Miksch.
Meegan has been a part-time officer in Wellfleet since 2009, becoming full time in 2013. He is a 2013 graduate of the Plymouth Police Academy and is state certified as a full-time police officer and passed an extensive background check.
“His chief was rather upset that he was going to lose him,” Miksch said. “He describes officer Meegan to be very responsible, motivated, dedicated and loyal. His chief further informed me he that he could see Jared as one of the next leaders in their department and is sad to see him leave.”