The Town of Cheshire will seek bids for legal services — including Town Attorney, Bond Counsel, and Labor Counsel.
Earlier this month, the Town Council voted unanimously to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for the services. There was little discussion before and after the vote, with the exception of comments from Councilor Silvia Nichols, who made the motion, and Town Council Chair Rob Oris Jr.
Both said the RFP was not a reflection on how the Council views the performance of longtime Town Attorney Alfred E. Smith Jr., a partner with the Murtha Cullina law firm, which has an office in New Haven.
“We just think it's time to refresh (the RFP) with no disparaging to the current legal services,” Nichols said during the Dec. 10 meeting.
Oris added that the RFP will ensure that the Town is getting a good price and good services, stating, “This in no way reflects on our thoughts regarding your performance, Attorney Smith.”
Smith did not respond to a request for comment.
A copy of the Town’s current contract with Smith and Murtha Cullina was not available.
According to a copy of the Town’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, which has since been adopted, Town Attorney costs were listed at $368,300 for both the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years.
Oris, when reached for comment last week, said that the Council had been discussing whether to issue an RFP for legal services “for a few years now.” His preference is municipal legal services that are within the umbrella of a large law firm.
“I personally favor a larger firm that might have areas and divisions of expertise,” Oris said, adding that type of expertise is offered by Murtha Cullina.
Smith is currently serving as Town Attorney for two municipalities — Cheshire and Avon — according to the firm’s website. Smith, a Woodbridge resident, previously served as a member of that town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
A press release issued by Murtha Cullina in July of 2016 stated that Smith has served Cheshire since 2006. The release also said that Smith would “continue the tradition of providing Cheshire and its officials with high-quality, practical legal advice in virtually all areas of municipal law, including governance, land use, Freedom of Information Act, procurement and real estate.”