WINCHESTER - On the back of the “great service” delivered by Town Counsel Anderson & Kreiger, the Select Board unanimously approved a renewal process for both the remaining months of FY21 (June 30) and the entire fiscal year of 2022 (June 30, 2022).
Town Manager Lisa Wong informed the board they usually renew town counsel’s contract on April 1; however, town counsel’s contract doesn’t necessarily have to overlap in terms. Currently, the town pays Anderson & Kreiger a $22,000 per month flat rate, but the law firm raised their rates to $25,000 per month, so the town will pay that going forward.
In order for the town not to exceed its legal budget of $450,000, Wong suggested the town limit its use of town counsel. As of now, only one or two cases require town counsel’s services as litigation varied in recent years.
If the board decided to move on from Anderson & Kreiger, they could have asked the town manager to use the RFP process to solicit bids from other law firms or the town could hire an in-house legal counsel.
Instead, the board praised the work of Anderson & Kreiger and chose to except the flat fee increase of $3,000 per month. Newest member of the Select Board Rich Mucci, who won the seat vacated by Jacqueline Welch, called the firm’s hourly rates reasonable (they charge per hour for litigation).
“I don’t think we’ll do better going out to bid,” he remarked.
Former chair Michael Bettencourt said he’s seen lower hourly rates, but liked the flat fee structure due to its predictability. In some cases, the town benefits and in others Anderson & Kreiger do.
New chair Susan Verdicchio said she was “pleased with the quality of work” that the law firm does while new vice-chair Mariano Goluboff said, “everybody at Anderson & Kreiger has given us great service.”
He noted how the town’s main issue involves land cases, which happens to be Anderson & Kreiger’s speciality.
Select Board member Amy Shapiro echoed her fellow board members’ comments, mentioning the history the firm has with the town and the great work they’ve done.
Bettencourt said members of the Finance Committee asked the town to “reel in” legal fees, but he mentioned that aspect is “out of our control.” Wong also pointed out it was FinCom who recommended she increase the legal department budget from $400,000 to $450,000 (this fiscal year, the town is on track to spend $475,000).