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Town Attorney Says Suits to Recover Miron Appointee Severance Packages Costs Town Nothing

Attorneys chosen to work on cases are paid on contingency basis, Tim Bishop said. No matter how the attorneys are paid (or not), former Mayor Miron predicts that the town's appeal of recent decision approving payments will fail.

Stratford Town Attorney Tim Bishop has defended the administration’s handling of the legal actions taken in an attempt to recover severance funds paid to a handful of former Mayor Jim Miron’s appointees, including two mayoral aides, Eric Castater and Debron Wilson. 

“We’re not paying a penny for legal fees on those cases.  They are on contingency.  It’s one of my innovations," Bishop said this week.  

“In the past the Town would pay lawyers an hourly rate to collect money, sometimes spending more than they collected.  

"Since taking over at the end of 2009, we don’t pay lawyers to do collections.  We find lawyers to take these cases on contingency.  They get a percentage of the recovery.  It’s up to them to handle it efficiently and reach a successful outcome.” 

The issue came to the surface several weeks ago when it was announced that Miron administrative appointee Eric Castater won his trial in the controversy over 'cash out' payments after 2009 elections. The Town under Mayor John Harkins argued that payments violated written contract between the Town and the employee. The decision in the Castater ruling has been appealed. 

Bishop was responding to questions asking how much the town paid in pursuing legal cases against some of former Mayor Miron's officials.  

One resident wrote Stratford Patch, “I am curious if legal fees exceeded those "over payments."  I am not defending nor condemning the Miron administration, but it would be interesting to see if we are spending more on legal fees than on assumed settlements.” 

Bishop agreed that on its face, he understands the concern. 

“It’s hard to make money on a $4-5,000 contingency case so I try to give a lawyer that takes on contingency work enough cases so that they will average out to be fair. 

“I think that in this case there are people who wanted to see the matter pursued on principle.  

“Others felt that what happened was not only reprehensible but that the economics warranted action. 

“Either way you look at it, the precedential value of the situation is dangerous,” Bishop said.  “I believe the number that a small team of insiders walked away with was close to $250,000.  They put together that scheme in a matter of weeks following their loss at the polls” in late 2009. 

“There was no money in the budget, there was never a plan to pay these benefits, there was no notice to the Town and no attempt made to seek approval by the Town Council as required, I believe, by the Charter. 

“It’s not just a simple case of unprofessionalism or bad sportsmanship,” Bishop continued. “”It’s a dangerous misinterpretation of the Charter.  If it stands up, then any Mayor can secretly gather his team in a smoke-filled room (or sound-proof executive office), decide how much they are going to divert from Town resources and how they are going to whack it up, leave with fat checks in their pockets and never return.” 

That view was strongly refuted by former Mayor Miron, who saw the recent court victory in the case as vindication of his actions. 

Miron said recently, "As I had repeatedly stated, the 'cash out' process used for separating town employees who were mayoral appointees was legal and proper and substantially the same process every other employee leaving town service uses.”

Bishop disagreed.

“The taxpayers never approved that scenario and I think they are justifiably offended by what was done.  I think it is important to establish that the Charter protects the taxpayers from self-dealing of this nature and to make sure that the people who did it are punished and that it never happens again.” 

Bishop noted that he was giving the official opinion of the Harkins administration. 

“I’m not sure if the Town or the administration has an ‘official’ position on this,” Bishop said. “If they do, it is likely what I said above.  

“Pretty much everyone I’ve spoken with on both sides of the aisle feel the same way. 

“The limited few who disagree are solidly in the Miron camp; their lips permanently stained by the additives in the cool-aid!” 

Miron was unphased and predicted recently that the appeal will also fail.

"Mayor John Harkins needlessly used Mr. Castater as a pawn in his post election 'scorch and burn' tactics against me and my administration. 

"I would hope that with this decision by the court, after a full trial, Mayor Harkins would conclude that the court system is not the proper forum for his political posturing,” Miron said.

JIll May 03, 2011 at 05:10 PM
Full of class as always Jimmy as noted in your last line.
Jim Miron May 03, 2011 at 06:10 PM
I agree with Tom Mackay - if you are going to criticize someone, which is certainly your right, you ought to have the common decency to let people know who you are. In this manner people can discover if the author has his or her own political agenda or if comments are being "manufactured" by a political operation. The idea of people blogging under pseudonyms or first names, lobbing bombs and criticism while hidden seems unseemly and, from my perspective as someone that is not afraid of expressing an opinion and being criticized for it, cowardly.
Jezebel282 May 03, 2011 at 06:24 PM
"I would love to sit here and educate you all day Jezebel but some of us have to work. Have a great day!" Half day, Jimmy? Does your boss know your posting now? "The idea of people blogging under pseudonyms or first names, lobbing bombs and criticism while hidden seems unseemly and, from my perspective as someone that is not afraid of expressing an opinion and being criticized for it, cowardly." Irrelevant and not the point as usual. There is no requirement to identify anyone that has an opinion. It is either right or wrong and it makes no difference who might have that opinion. In fact, it promotes open discussion. However, if it makes you feel any better at all, I am a registered Democrat and have been for much longer than you have been. I have voted for a Republican twice in my entire life. Once for John Harkins and once for Kevin Kelly. Want to guess who the other choice was?
Jim Miron May 03, 2011 at 09:41 PM
No, I am still at work in fact. I just needed a quick break and a laugh and you never fail to amuse with your twisted logic, torturing of the facts and hidden identity but certainly not hidden agenda. Of course there is no "requirement" to identify oneself on these blogs. However, it is ironic that you feel compelled to give some of you alleged demographic information as if to bolster your credibility. However, for someone with a lot of opinions and criticisms it must be nice to hide under a pseudonym. How anyone can give your posts credibility strains credulity.
Jim Miron May 03, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Of course - have to point out the obvious - good distraction Jezebel from the real issue which is the mayor and town attorney using the court system for political purposes, losing, appealing and continuing to spend tax dollars on frivolous lawsuits.

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