Legal Issues From 2017-18 Have Long Tail

by | May 20, 2019

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

On the agenda for executive session Monday night, the Town Council will “discuss legal fees from Whelan, Corrente, Flanders, Kinder & Siket LLP,” the law firm hired by the previous Town Council in August 2017 that did work for the town through December 2018.

The town was billed $385,000 through November by Whelan, Corrente. That was for work in addition to that done by former Town Solicitor David D’Agostino, who was earning $16,000 a month at the time he was dismissed in November.

The former Town Manager Gayle Corrigan era was particularly litigious. All told, the town saw 16 civil litigation cases, 27 union grievances, 37 union arbitration cases and 4 cases before the state Labor Relations Board accrued over a 15-month period that ended with the election in November that brought in a new Town Council and a less-confrontational approach to union-management issues.

While no similar new legal issues have been initiated since Corrigan’s departure late last year, many of those legal cases remain. And the town has picked up additional insurance costs: the town’s liability insurance increased by $75,000 and the town’s litigation deductible jumped from $5,000 to $100,000.

“As a result of all those lawsuits, not only did they increase the premium, but they increased the deductible from $5,000 to $100,000,” said town finance consultant Mike D’Amico said during the May 13 public hearing on the budget. “So, any lawsuit that’s brought against the town, the first $100,000 of that lawsuit has to be paid for by the town. It used to be just $5,000. So we’re paying more for our liability coverage and we’re paying more for the judgment.”

Most of the cases involved the EG firefighters, but several of the lawsuits were brought by individuals who were either fired by former town manager Gayle Corrigan or related to action taken by her during her tenure.

Town Solicitor Michael Ursillo detailed the town’s current standing in a memo shared with EG News:

  • The current Council has dealt with 16 civil litigation matters, 2 of which have been resolved, 14 remain pending, 12 of which are currently being handled by the insurance carrier, and 6 of those pending matters involve the firefighters or the Fire Department;
  • There are four stayed ULP complaints currently being negotiated;
  • There were 28 pending grievances, all involving the Fire Department, 25 of which have been resolved;
  • There are 36 labor matters assigned to arbitration, 4 of which do not involve the Fire Department. Of the 32 that involve the Fire Department, 3 remain unresolved.

Over time, D’Amico said, the higher insurance costs should decrease, assuming the town can stay away from a new rash of litigation.

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