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Selectmen choose town counsel

Hingham selectmen voted 2-1 on Dec. 28 to hire attorney John Coughlin as the next town counsel, after interviewing two candidates for the position.

The decision follows the resignation of longtime town counsel James Toomey, who said he felt the role had become too narrow for his larger firm. Over the past few years, the town has decided to segregate its caseload, bringing on different lawyers depending on the nature of the case.

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As a result, general town counsel jobs have become smaller, mainly relegated to preparing for Town Meeting. “We were looking for someone with a small firm with a focus on general municipal practice,” Town Administrator Ted Alexiades said of the new hire. “John worked for the city solicitor of Fall River . . . and had a lot of knowledge of drafting ordinances that were a similar type.”

Selectwoman Irma Lauter voted against the hire, arguing that the selection was made outside of a Request for Proposal process, and that the position didn’t have a clearly defined role. In addition, she said, Coughlin may prove more expensive, considering the town would have to pay for his travel from Fall River.

“People will definitely understand why I voted ‘no,’ ” Lauter said. “In the end, this will cost us a lot of money.”

However, Selectman Bruce Rabuffo replied that the selection had to be made quickly, considering the upcoming Town Meeting. In addition, the cost of travel will be negligible, as previously attorneys have worked via e-mail or over the phone, Rabuffo said.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at
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