The cost of the town’s legal services is running higher than anticipated this year but its number of court cases has dwindled, according to Duxbury’s town counsel.
Attorney Arthur Krieger of Anderson and Kreiger, LLP of Cambridge met with the Board of Selectmen Monday night to discuss the running costs of legal fees for the town and to review pending legal cases and other issues. Kreiger supplied the board with three documents: a litigation tracker, a list of all issues he has worked on since July 2012, and a summary of legal costs for 2013 and 2014.
Last summer, the town agreed to raise Kreiger’s flat monthly fee for general legal services to $12,000 per month because the costs were much higher than the $8,000 monthly rate set when Kreiger began in December 2012. It was decided that the law firm would be also paid a separate flat fee for its work on town meeting. The costs of litigation are also separate from the monthly fee.
For the first four months of 2014, Kreiger noted that there has only been one month in which the legal costs have been under the flat fee amount. In January, the total of all le- gal services was $9,301, which includes $5,053 for general legal help, under the category of the monthly fee, and $4,248 for help related to town meeting.
For February through April, the costs have been running much higher. February’s total for all legal help was $27,579 with the flat fee expenses at close to $16,000 and the town meeting expenses totaling over $11,600. March was similar with a $24,776 total, which included $13,684 for general legal services and $11,092 for town meeting. In April, the to- tal dipped to $20,463 as town meeting expenses decreased to only $442, but the flat fee amount soared to $20,020. The total cost for town meeting–related legal services from No- vember to March was $31,089.
So far, legal expenses for 2014 total $82,120. For 2013, that total was $207,019.
Kreiger said he hoped that over the course of the year, the costs for general legal help would ultimately average out to the $12,000 amount.
“I’m not asking you to raise the monthly fee, but I’m also not asking you to cut it because it’s well over the amount,” said Kreiger.
Selectmen Chairman Shawn Dahlen asked what was driving the higher legal fees in the past few months, especially if the costs of help with town meeting were separate.
Kreiger said it was his company’s work on two Chapter 40B developments and on updating regulations the town has asked town counsel to review. Attorneys are in the process of updating both aquaculture and crematory regulations, Kreiger said.
“These are projects that do eat up a lot of time,” Kreiger said.
Dahlen questioned how much work the lawyers needed to do on the aquaculture regu- lations, saying that the Shellfish Advisory committee had recently revised them.
“We ended up redrafting them” in order to make them more clear and legally compli- ant, said Kreiger. “I hope you will see something on them shortly.”
Kreiger said he was not sure why the legal costs for April were over $20,000. His list shows 78.5 hours were billed for general legal costs. Kreiger said he assumed it was work on Chapter 40B land developments. The list Kreiger provided shows that lawyers were asked by the Zoning Board of Appeals assistant to work on the Duxbury Woods Chapter 40B in March. One of Kreiger’s attorneys “emailed edits” for this development located off Tremont Street in April. Also in April, a ZBA member contacted Kreiger’s firm regarding the MacLean’s Way Chapter 40B development off Bow Street. This project is currently before the ZBA.
Dahlen noted that the Duxbury Woods development “was approved a long time ago.”
“Each chews up the flat fee,” Kreiger said of legal work on Chapter 40B developments.
Dahlen said that while the town had no complaints with Kreiger’s legal services, that it still needed to keep on top of what legal help it asked for and to keep an eye on the costs.
He especially wanted to know about issues that are eventually separated out of the flat fee and become hourly cases because they take more work. One example of this was the 2014 special town meeting article that proposed to change the position of town clerk from elected to appointed. Kreiger said he would notify Town Manager Rene Read about these cases.
"Those are the kind of triggers I'd like to hear about," Dahlen said.
Kreiger noted that the town’s court cases have decreased since his company was hired.
A May 2 memo from Kreiger to selectmen lists 10 legal cases but only four are active cases involving the town. These include Calm Golf v. Duxbury and Robert Troy, Duxbury v. Robert Troy, John- son Golf Management Inc., v Duxbury, and Duxbury v. Johnson Golf Management, Inc.
According to Kreiger, in the Calm Golf v. Duxbury and Robert Troy, both the town and Troy have moved to dismiss the case. A hearing is scheduled for May 19 in Plymouth Superior Court.
In the Duxbury v. Robert Troy case, Kreiger said Troy, Duxbury’s former town coun- sel, has served motion for a judgment on the pleadings re- garding the Procurement Act and the indemnification issue is still outstanding. That case is also at Plymouth Superior Court.