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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.

Johnathan Nathamiel April 30, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Kool Aid and cash never mix. What Miron did was shameful and why he would never be elected again.
Tommy MacKay May 01, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Does the Stratford Town Attorney Tim Bishop understand the concept of "contingency" payment? Paying a lawyer on contingency means that the plaintiff agrees that the attorney's fee will be determined by the amount of the settlement awarded to the plaintiff, should the case be won in the plaintiff's favor. If the plaintiff does not win the case, the attorney will receive no fee. Many people falsely believe if they lose the case they will not have to pay anything. Though they will not have to pay the attorney's fee, they will still be responsible for expenses their attorney incurred in pursuing their case. These fees might include investigative services, expert witnesses, court costs and court reporter fees, etcetera. If Mr. Bishop does win this very weak case the Town will still forfeit a share of the settlement to pay the attorneys-thus costing the taxpayers anyway. If they lose again, there are still expenses the Town of Stratford will be responsible for. This is just GOP political posturing, plain and simple. They lost the case, yet they press on to try to justify wasting taxpayers money on their witch hunt. Our town has no leadership-just empty suits with an ax to grind or a resume to pad. Mayor Harkin and his administration need to focus on Stratford's rising taxes,the Fire & Police Unions financial drain on the town, and show Mayor Miron the respect he deserves as Stratford's first Mayor!
Jim Miron May 01, 2011 at 02:25 PM
It is no surprise that Mayor John Harkin’s has sent his hand picked town attorney, Tim Bishop, as his attack dog to distract and mislead the Stratford taxpayers. After all, Mr. Harkins needs something for people to think about except the reality of the Harkins Administration and their “go to” is always to blame the Miron administration. Let’s face it, after almost 18 months in office Mr. Harkins has two consecutive tax increases, deep cuts to town services, schools in jeopardy of funding and closure and a general decline in the look of the town and no plan for the future. The only ones that have benefited from the Harkins administration first 18 months in office have been the town attorneys and the unions that supported Mr. Harkins run for mayor. Those budgets have increased significantly. As have our taxes. After 18 months the people of Stratford deserve more than hearing from its current mayor that its former mayor is to blame for everything. That excuse may work for the first 6 months or so but is getting old. Let it go Mayor Harkins. You wanted to be mayor, right? Lead the town forward.
Jim Miron May 01, 2011 at 10:34 PM
Mr. Mackay is absolutely correct. What Mr. Bishop, the town attorney appointed by Mayor Harkins, conveniently neglects to say is that regardless of how the town pays their attorneys for these frivolous lawsuits there are expenses that are incurred in each case. Those expenses include but are not limited to: 1. Superior court filing fees; 2. Marshal fees for serving the lawsuits; 3. Subpoena fees; 4. Court reporter fees for depositions and transcripts; 5. Appellate court fees and appeal related expenses. Additionally, the prevailing party has a right to petition the court for reimbursement of THEIR costs. So, while there is no “attorney’s fee” if the town loses (as they have so far) the taxpayers are still responsible for the town's costs AND the costs of the people they are suing. I have been an attorney at law for 17 years and I have read the court’s decision. In my opinion, the judge, who is a well respected and senior jurist in the state, made a factually and legally correct decision. The town has lost their claim and, frankly, they should have never brought them as they were without merit. However, rather than accept the court’s decision and doing the right thing for the town and the people the town is suing the Mayor and his hand picked town attorney are trying to save face and gain some headlines to distract the voters during this crucial budget season. James R. Miron Attorney at Law Former Mayor of the Town of Stratford
Allison May 02, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Well, seeing as this was the mess of the former mayor, maybe the Town of Stratford can go after him for all the other "fees"....since it was Mr. Mirons making. I was totally disgusted after the election (which I did vote for you, Mr. Miron) not only did you disappear, but so did the staff with their "payouts"......At this time, I dont believe a single word you say....and as a taxpayer I feel I have the right to tell you that. That was MY money that I payed to the town, and I would rather have it spent on righting a wrong then letting some people who didnt deserve it in the first place and walked out on their jobs get to keep it.
Jim Miron May 02, 2011 at 12:22 AM
Allison, disappear? That is simply not true. You can believe what and who you want to, that is certainly your right. Obviously you have choosen to believe Mr. Harkins - the real creator of this "mess". Again, your perogative. However, a Superior Court Judge has already said that nothing was done improperly. But I guess that is not enough for some people.
Tommy MacKay May 02, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Allison, I have to agree with Jim Miron. I am a taxpayer, Stratford business owner, and life long resident. Mr. Miron did an exemplary job in a tough position. As Stratford FIRST mayor Jim, to be sure, had hurdles to clear and hills to climb . And in such a polarized town ,any honest mayor would have a hard time getting things done. Mr. Harkins finds it easy because he caves on issues and basically has handed to town to special interest groups and raised our taxes to do it. Look into this case a little more-actually ask questions of the right people, and you will begin to see what is actually going on in this town, our town. Incidentally, Mr. Miron hasn't "disappeared". Jim could have walked away from the madness, but it is not his character. Rather , Jim stays involved because he cares about his town too. You may have missed his run for Senate in 2010 to give Stratford a voice at the big table. Jim was asked to step up run to help represent our town. And he did. That sounds like someone who cares about their town-it doesn't sound like someone who steals from it.
Jezebel282 May 02, 2011 at 11:26 AM
Holy mackerel! It's almost as if 2005-2009 didn't happen. Did we all forget about the Town Attorney, Rich Buturla and Berchem Moses & Devlin? How many millions of dollars did that cost us? How about his brother John as Chief of Police? No conflict there, huh? What about raising taxes by 25.74%, Jimmy? How about appointing Joe Loschiavo to Deputy Chief? And there is always the ever popular move of "firing" your top administrators on your very last day. You can get as many sock puppets as you like to post about all the roses and rainbows that appeared every time you entered Town Hall. We still remember that you will always be the first and worst.
Allison May 02, 2011 at 04:39 PM
What I was referring to was when Mr. Miron had to turn over his keys to his renovated office at Town Hall, and instead of being an upstanding citizen and smoothing the transition, he was nowhere to be found (Im sure I can run down to the library and pull up the old articles). Unfortunately, any good that was done during the four years WILL be overshadowed by the bad.....As the first mayor, he did have a large expectation, and maybe he did do alot of good that no one either remembers or was not printed. The green across from Baldwin center does look great, but how many of us cringe when they see a police car wondering if the officer driving has some medical condition and was hired anyway? Maybe taxes were not raised for awhile, but what about the new fire trucks that were so desperately needed? No one person can please everyone, but there has to be a line drawn at some point. I dont believe Harkins is doing a smashup job either, but I agree with fighting for the money that was paid out as "bonuses" to people that didnt give appropriate notice or was "fired". Whether or not those employees were done when Mr. Miron was done, they still should of eased the transition for the new mayor.
Jim Miron May 02, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Allison, you are either misinformed or are purposely choosing to parrot political rhetoric for obvious reasons. The fact of the matter is that I was at town hall everyday during the transition and have documented evidence of that. I also have documented evidence of my numerous attempts to communicate with the mayor-elect to assist him during the transition. Mr. Harkins refused my offer to assist him in the transition when he and his transition team would not even extend the simplest of courtesies (i.e. answering phone calls and e-mails) to me as the outgoing mayor. I am not interested in trying to convince anybody of the merits of my terms as Stratford’s first mayor. It is what it is and any objective person that does real research as opposed to choosing to believe gossip, blogs and even news stories can come to whatever educated conclusion they wish to. I am confident that if they did that they will have a more positive view than not. However, when my record and reputation is being impugned by outright lies than I am compelled to protect my reputation and set the record straight. Certainly not every decision I made was popular but each decision always complied with the law and was made with the best interest of the town in mind. James R. Miron Attorney at Law Stratford, Connecticut
Jim Miron May 02, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Jezebel - you doing that funny math again? I guess so, since that number is just made up. Why not make it 35.7% that is even higher! Fact of the matter is that taxes were stabilized under my administration and the town enjoyed increased bond ratings by Wall Street based on my administrations fiscal integrity and plan. You cannot say the same for the current administration. Additionally, under my administration town services were not cut and the town was better maintained. You cannot say that under the current administration. You might not have liked certain decisions or personnel I hired but that hardly mean those decisions were improper. You are merely expressing an opinion and one that is biased based on some very personal issue you have against me. You should just come clean and share the bias with everybody. I do not mind. It would certainly make it clear why you dislike me so much. Finally, Rich Buturla and/or Berchem, Moses and Devlin have been town attorneys for Stratford since at least 1995 and have been appointed to do legal work mostly by elected Republicans in Stratford. Once again, good job in changing the conversation from the real issue here: the current mayor wasting money on political and frivolous lawsuits he is losing and then wasting even more on appeals. James R. Miron Attorney at Law Stratford, Connecticut
Jezebel282 May 02, 2011 at 06:12 PM
"I guess so, since that number is just made up. Why not make it 35.7% that is even higher! " Made up? 12%, 9% and 3%. Do the math, Jimmy. Don't forget to compound either. The issue in case you missed it is the your performance for four dark years. But that's OK...there are plenty of people who voted against you that do remember.
Tommy MacKay May 03, 2011 at 03:31 AM
I see it now. While the Stratford Star reports, the Stratford Patch reports and then degenerates into faceless ,nameless garbage. Who is "Jezebel282"? Who is "Allison"? Maybe it is John Harkin's or his cronies up late at night defending their special interests in disguise! Create a profile!! Come out from behind the curtain!! Be a proud citizen of Stratford! Make your opinion and reputation match your name! Stop with the misinformation and lies! Hold yourself accountable just as you hold the Town Mayor an Council!! I am a business owner ,student father and dare I say, activist. And I don't care who knows it. Let anyone come up against me and I will defend and attack the issues honestly and faithfully! I'm not afraid-why are you Allison and Jezebel282? Criminals? Mayoral plants? If you don't have a profile-YOU DON'T HAVE CREDIBILITY!! COME OUT COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE!!!
Jezebel282 May 03, 2011 at 11:19 AM
ROTFLMAO! Jimmy, "Rubbish. The increase - averaged over the 4 years - was less than 12%. " Why not average it over 25 years? 50? 100 maybe? Math is math, Jimmy. Who in the world "averages" their mortgage payments over 4 years? Tommy, "Who is "Jezebel282"?" Try to keep up, willya? http://stratfordcharter.wordpress.com/
Jim Miron May 03, 2011 at 12:20 PM
No, I am ROTFLMAO. First of all, you DO know the Town Council passes the budget, right? Second, ask any member of the Town Council while I was mayor - especially the staunch Miron opponents (and that is most of them) if THEY raised taxes over 25% in fours years. They will tell you absolutely not. It is simply untrue. The budget, in it's highest increase, which was my first year as mayor, was at about 6%. Then it went down each year until a decrease the last year. The AVERAGE increase was under 4% if you add it all the increases up and divide by 4. The TOTAL increase added together was 12%.
Jezebel282 May 03, 2011 at 12:32 PM
Oh? It was the Council's fault? I thought you claimed it was your budget. Sorry, I do apologize. I didn't realize both terms of the Council were "staunch Miron opponents". Whew! You sure had a lot of people out to "get you" didn't you? I suppose the newspapers got the amounts wrong too. The numbers stand, Jimmy.
Allison May 03, 2011 at 12:35 PM
Who am I? I am a stay at home mom, someone who can read and hear, and unless you are telling me that EVERYTHING I have read in the paper or heard at town meetings are fibs, then I think you need to back off. I thought the Patch was somewhere to voice opinions, not a popularity contest. Im sorry if I dont have a profile or my name, Im not really sure how to fix that, I created my Patch account way before there was a Stratford Patch, I was commenting on a diffrent town. Lets put it this way, I am niether a "Harkins cronie", nor a "Mironista". I am niether a Democrat nor a Republican. I am one of the town citizens that talks with the other town citizens, you know, the other moms, dads, grandmas, that drop their kids off at school and then decide to stop for a cup of coffee. I form my own opinions. Do I like what the former mayor did? Like I said earlier, he did do some good, n]but unfortunately there was an awful lot of bad. Do I like what the current mayor is doing? Nope, I feel like he is dragging his behind on the important stuff. The article that we are to be commenting on is the laywers in town not taking any payment until they recover the money that was paid out. Im very sorry that mr. Miron he has to defend everything that comes up, but it was his doing, so of course his name wll be involved. True enough, though, he is a lawyer, and the many laywers I know always make sure to cover their rears, so Im sure its a losing battle.
Allison May 03, 2011 at 12:35 PM
I dont know who any of you are really, and I dont care, but I dont like that I am not allowed to come on here and post what I feel and to be told that I HAVE to give my name and address and blood type for my words to have any credibility. You, Mr. Thomas MacKay, seem like a very one sided man, and I think its horrible that you feel you have to attack anyone who doesnt swing to yours and Miron side. As stated, I dont play sides. Now everyone, like I said, this is a thread about the town attorneys. How they arent getting paid. Though I sure im just being misinformed again, I will form my own opinions based on the various articles I have read about this very topic, and If I post anything, its because I have formed my own opinion. Thank you.
Jim Miron May 03, 2011 at 12:36 PM
Read for yourself : http://www.townofstratford.com/filestorage/1302/1944/11188/04_FY_2009_-_Budget_Message_-_Mayor_to_Residents.pdf
Jim Miron May 03, 2011 at 12:39 PM
This is a good one too: http://www.townofstratford.com/Upload/147/16273/18716/04%20FY10%20Budget%20Message%20-%20Mayor%20to%20Citizens.pdf
Jim Miron May 03, 2011 at 12:53 PM
No, the budget was was one area where the Town Council and I got things done, on balance, the right way. The newspaper reporting at the Stratford Star (under several editors) was always balanced. The CT Post was a different story. The CT Post had a reporter that covered Stratford my entire term- a Mr. Weizel (who I know you know well) who LOVED mud raking and who was very biased. Anyone reading a story by the Star and the Post (Mr. Weizel) about almost any event while I was mayor will note the usually stark difference in the story. Almost as if two different events were being written about. In any event, as Karma would have it - shortly after my election loss Mr. Weizel was fired from the CT Post, resulting in a dramatic newsroom confrontation, and for reaons that the CT Post, unfortunaltey, will never print. One could specualte it is very well related to issues discovered about Mr. Weizel relative to his reporting over the previous four years. Perhaps we will find out about it all when Mr. Weizel's lawsuit against the CT Post goes to trial. In a bit of irony - I find myself rooting for the CT Post. In any event, I would love to sit here and educate you all day Jezebel but some of us have to work. Have a great day!
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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