BAR HARBOR — Town councilors are set to interview attorney Ed Bearor of the Bangor law firm Rudman Winchell in executive session immediately before their regular council meeting next week.
The town sent out a request for proposals (RFP) for legal services earlier this fall. A committee including Town Manager Cornell Knight and councilors Paul Paradis and David Bowden prepared the RFP and discussed the one proposal received, from Rudman Winchell. The proposal was included in the council’s packet for the Oct. 6 meeting.
On Oct. 6, councilor Anne Greenlee said she was concerned that there was only one application. She asked if more should be solicited.
“The committee did consider that,” Knight said. “We talked about whether to go back out since we only had one proposal, but decided to at least give due consideration to the one, hold an interview, and if that did not pan out, then go back out. We did hear from some firms that they were ‘conflicted out,’ that they do too much business down here, and it would be too many conflicts.”
Bearor, who represented Emera Maine in the recently dropped Supreme Court appeal to “Murphy vs. Town of Bar Harbor,” told the Islander conflict-checking is an ongoing task at firms like his.
“We pay a lot of money for a very sophisticated conflict-checking system, and even then, sometimes you miss it,” he said. If the town entered an agreement with his firm, he said, and “the town had an issue with one of our other clients, we wouldn’t represent either one. And when I say ‘we,’ I mean no one in the firm.”
Rudman Winchell has active referral relationships with other firms, the proposal says, for situations when unavoidable conflicts arise.
Under the town’s current agreement with the firm of Bernstein Shur, the agreed hourly rate of $150 for legal services has not changed in 15 years, Bowden said at the meeting.
Rudman Winchell’s proposal is for $175 an hour. This municipal rate is significantly lower than these firms’ normal fees, Bowden said.
“That type of law firm, if you were to go off the street to hire them, it would be a whole lot more.”
Current litigation involving the town includes an appeal of Dunlap vs. Town of Bar Harbor, regarding results of elections in June of this year. Two separate proposed changes to the town land use ordinance each received a simple majority of votes but not the two-thirds majority required to pass changes over the objection of the planning board, according to town officials. A hearing is expected in November or December, Dunlap’s attorney Arthur Greif said.
A suit brought by former police chief Nate Young also is active, but attorneys from the Maine Municipal Association are representing the town in that case. It is slated for trial next March.