A citizens’ petition to reimburse Selectman Martha Gjesteby for legal frees she acquired while fighting a criminal ethics charge filed against her by the board of selectmen in 2012-13 will be discussed by the advisory committee tonight. This will be the committee’s second go-’round on whether to reimburse Gjesteby for legal fees of $9,226.52. (Photo of Gjesteby at left).
Approximately 130 voters asked that town meeting vote to have the Cohasset Board of Selectmen reimburse Gjesteby “since they (the legal fees) arose from an illegal act of Town employees,” first petition signer Tom Gruber said in a letter to the advisors e-mailed to advisors Wednesday, Oct. 22.
At a prior Meeting of your Committee, we were asked about the reasons for the involvement of Ms Martha Gjesteby’s legal counsel. The following note was received from Brendon Moss, Esq. describing the nature of his involvement in the Gjesteby matter.
The things to consider, in my opinion, are:
1) The original complaint against Ms Gjesteby was criminal in nature, which by itself warrants legal representation.
2) The entire atmosphere between Ms Gjesteby, the Executive Session Meeting between majority of the Board of Selectmen and the Acting Town Manager was one of acrimony, by all accounts. Thus, Ms Gjesteby had to act to defend her legal rights.
3) When all was said and done, the Board of Selectmen’s criminal complaint was dismissed and the actions by the Acting Town Manager and the Board of Selectmen which had taken place in the Executive Session were found to be illegal.
4) We believe that this sequence of events completely justifies the necessity of Ms Gjesteby’s legal representation. The original complaint filed by the Board of Selectmen was dismissed, and the setting in which the Board of Selectmen’s complaint was raised was found to be illegal. Therefore, it is only equitable that Ms Gjesteby be reimbursed for her legal expenses, since they arose from an illegal act of Town employees.
From: Brandon H. Moss, Esq.
Subject: Overview of Legal Representation
Date: October 20, 2014 at 10:07:10 AM EDT
To: Martha Gjesteby
Our legal representation back in 2012-2013 dealt with 3 issues: (1) the original ethicscomplaint that was initiated by the Board of Selectmen; (2) a second ethics matter, which was threatened by the Board of Selectmen; and (3) an Open Meeting Law matter arising out of the same meeting at which the original ethics complaint originated.
We incurred time drafting correspondence on the original ethics complaint and Open Meeting Law matter. Additionally, a significant portion of time involved attendance at two Board of Selectmen meetings. At both of these meetings, the ethics matters were not undertaken at the outset of the meetings, and instead were ultimately discussed later on during the meetings, resulting in legal fees being incurred during the delay.
As it turns out the original ethics complaint was filed by the Town with the State Ethics Commission, and was opposed by our office on your behalf. This was a significant matter because the Conflict of Interest Law is a criminal statute, and involved instigating a complaint with the State Ethics Commission against a public official, even after I had an opportunity to be heard at the first Board of Selectmen meeting on your behalf. The State Ethics Commission ultimately declined to pursue any action.
The Open Meeting Law matter resulted in an adverse ruling by the Division of Open Government.
Finally, the Board of Selectmen, during a meeting, declined to pursue the second ethics complaint – this matter had been raised by the Board of Selectmen and Town Counsel, but ultimately no action was taken.
In handling these matters, our office utilized its substantial municipal law experience, which assisted in limiting legal fees. Nonetheless, attendance at meetings and communicating in writing and via telephone with third parties was beyond our control, and played a role in the legal fees incurred, in addition to the written filings that were made.
I hope this overview is helpful. Please advise if I can be of any further assistance.
Brandon H. Moss, Esquire
Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP
300 Crown Colony Drive, 4th Floor
Quincy, MA 02169