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Hingham to change legal counsel after resignation

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 19, 2012 12:52 PM

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Hingham will be interviewing new attorneys on Friday, following the resignation of the town’s legal adviser this week.

Attorney Jim Toomey, with Murphy, Hesse, Toomey, & Lehane LLP, has worked as town counsel for 25 years, covering a variety of case load topics including town meeting dealings, litigation, and labor negotiations.

In recent years, however, the town has decided to use more specialized practices for real estate and land use discussions, another for labor disputes, and a third for litigation, leaving a limited amount of work for Toomey and his firm.

As a result, in a letter to the town on Dec. 18, Toomey said “the Board’s decision to use multiple counsel in different roles has caused me to evaluate and adjust my case load and to re-direct my practice somewhat.”

The resignation comes as no surprise to Hingham officials.

“His approach and town’s approach to the services doesn’t mesh well. So he’s moving aside and we will be making a new appointment on Friday,” said Town Administrator Ted Alexiades.

“This change is not indicative of any performance review. It’s just what fits better,” Alexiades said.

According to Alexiades, the town has been moving in this direction for some time, even issuing a Request for Proposal for new firms last year.

During the process, the town decided to stay with Toomey, with whom they had worked for decades, and also decided to continue outsourcing specialized cases to other firms.

On Friday, Hingham officials will be interviewing John Coughlin and John Clifford, both with their own firms, for the job of town counsel. The next town counsel will handle Town Meeting matters and provide general legal advice as needed.

Both candidates were identified through the initial RFP process, and their firms are smaller and better suited to the new role the town has created, Alexiades said.

Still, Alexiades said he was sad to see Toomey go.

“I personally have worked with Jim for almost 20 years. He’s worked for the town close to 30, and I’ve always had the utmost respect for him personally and professionally,” Alexiades said

In his letter to the town, Toomey also expressed gratitude for his relationship with Hingham.

“It has been a privilege and a pleasure to represent the Town of Hingham,” he wrote. “Over the years, I have never ceased to be amazed at how the Town has flourished through the efforts of so many talented and dedicated employees and volunteer officials. My association with the Town and these people could not have been more personally and professionally rewarding.”

The town will continue to use Kevin Feeley with Feeley & Brown Associates for labor negotiations, Kerry Ryan with Morrissey, Wilson, & Zafiropoulos for litigation, and Susan Murphy with Brennan, Dain, Le Ray, Wiest, Torpy & Garner for real estate and land use discussions.

All three have been brought on within the last two years, Alexiades said.

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