Sunday, January 19, 2014

Brunswick Town Attorney: a ‘new direction?’


A thoughtful reader of ours, who we once jokingly referred to as Ms. Mall, sent along this thoughtful message she submitted to the Brunswick Town Council:

Town Council,

Did any of you read the Grievance Commission Decision concerning Stephen Langsdorf that was issued in 2009?

I long ago read the decision and immediately searched for it on the Board of Bar Overseers’ website when I read the article about the Town Council’s most recent meeting in the January 17 edition of The Forecaster.

The findings of the grievance panel clearly state: “On January 2, 2008, Attorney Jonathan S. Piper (Piper) of Portland [Preti Flaherty’s managing partner], filed a grievance complaint against Attorney Langsdorf. Attorneys Piper and Langsdorf are members of the same law firm.” (Emphasis added.) After the law firm’s office administrator demanded that Langsdorf  pay the $6,500+ bill that the firm had received from CMP in October 2007, he did “self-report” to the firm’s equity partners.

However, as of January 2008, he had still not “self-reported” to the Board, although he had had an obligation to do so from the time he named the firm as a guarantor of his personal CMP bill without its knowledge or consent in June 2003.

There can be no doubt of a lack of due diligence on the part of the Council. First, the Council failed to check Attorney Langsdorf’s disciplinary record before two members of the Council made the recommendation to hire him as municipal counsel.

Second, either: a) no member of the Council bothered to read the decision concerning Attorney Langsdorf; or b) no member of the Council was willing to challenge Attorney Langsdorf when he made the misrepresentation that he had “self-reported” to the Board.

I must also question the Council’s decision to hire Attorney Langsdorf and then negotiate his fees. I think that, as a matter of strategy, the Council should have negotiated a fee arrangement before making the decision to hire counsel.

Michelle A. Small

Ms. Small, who we believe to be an attorney as well, raises some good points, and we have these thoughts in response:

- If you were even close to accepting the notion that the council was going to go in ‘new directions,’ this situation won’t do much to illuminate or substantiate such a claim.

- Based on our personal experience, and that of everyone else we’re familiar with, we doubt Michelle will get any sort of response.  And the same thing would happen if she spoke on the subject live in front of the council.


- The decision to hire the attorney and THEN negotiate the fees is a clear case of TRS (that’s a municipal malady we’re identifying as Times Record Syndrome.)  In the case that gives rise to this diagnostic term, the town purchased the old Times Record building for something like $1.3 million, and only later ‘discovered’ that it needed $5 million or more in work to be ‘fit for use’ municipal style.  So keeping with the theme of this post, you could think of TRS as ‘ready, buy, due diligence.’

- Accordingly, we wonder if the town will hire its next Town Manager in the same way, inking a contract with no compensation specified, stating a ‘mutually agreed upon’ package will be negotiated after the person is ‘on board.’


Like you, we suspect, we can’t wait to see what happens the next time our betters on the council get ready to ‘pull the trigger’ on an important piece of official business.

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