Acting Town Counsel Arthur Kreiger this week settled a long standing discussion started by former selectman Christopher Donato last year about whether the town manager has the authority to engage the town counsel and whether the town’s bylaws conflict with the Town Manager Act.
During his term on the board of selectmen, Donato had asked for clarification as to whether the town’s bylaws conflict with language in the town manager act when it comes to using the services of the attorney hired to represent the town. Donato felt they did.
In a November 16 memo Kreiger said that they do not.
The town’s bylaws forbid any town department or official from requesting the services of town counsel without first obtaining the selectmen’s approval. However, according to the town manager act, the town manager is an agent of the selectmen and can employ the town counsel when authorized by the selectmen.
“Because the town manager takes those steps as the selectmen’s agent, he or she is bound by their direction,” Kreiger stated in his memo. “They can give the town manager broad authority in certain types or sizes of cases, or instruct him or her more specifically in a particular case. The town manager’s authorization from the selectmen need not be explicit; it may be inferred from their past practices and protocols.”
Under both the town manager act and the town’s bylaws, the town manager can direct the town counsel to defend or settle a particular case based on the selectmen’s direction.
“We do not believe that the bylaws conflict with the Act on this issue,” said Kreiger. “In my view, they are consistent.”