After three votes, four meetings, and complaints of Open Meetings laws violations, the Bristol County Water Authority board of directors on Feb. 27 voted to approve a new legal services contract with a new firm.
Marina Peterson, a blogger for Bristol-Warren Patch, reported that board members voted 6 to 1, with one abstention, to hire Keough & Sweeney of Pawtucket, replacing longtime counsel Cameron & Mittleman.
Chairman Allen Klepper read a statement from Cameron & Mittleman prior to the vote, in which the firm asked to be withdrawn from consideration.
The vote ended a process that took more than two months to resolve, after board members voted 5 to 2 to keep Cameron & Mittleman on Dec. 20, two days after holding a meeting to consider the applicants.
Residents later charged that the Dec. 18 session was held illegally, since an agenda had not been filed with the Rhode Island Secretary of State's office, and that the Dec. 20 vote was improperly held.
Board members again voted for Cameron & Littleman on Jan. 16 by a 4 to 3 vote — which then led to confusion over the BCWA by-laws and the state law governing the agency.
While the agency's by-laws generally require a majority vote for most matters, state law sets the minimum number of votes at five for resolutions like the legal contract.
On Jan. 18, BCWA Executive Director Pamela Marchand issued a statement saying that since the Jan. 16 vote did not reach the five votes required under state law, the board needed a third vote to be taken.