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Selectmen Chair Rawson irked by town lawyer's ouster

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Milton Selectchair Andy Rawson (Rochester Voice file photo)

MILTON - A Milton selectman split with his longtime colleague to cast the deciding vote to oust the town's former attorney, according to nonpublic minutes read in public during Monday's selectmen's meeting.

Selectmen Chairman Andy Rawson called the decision by Selectmen Mike Beaulieu and Ryan Thibeault to fire former Town Attorney Jim Sessler "appalling" and characterized it as not in the best interest of the town.

"My opinion is this left the town with no representation, and it was done without any thought process," an irate Rawson said. "This was done without any thought process, it's just appalling."

Thibeault said during the nonpublic meeting on July 24 that he was "concerned" that Sessler was not responding to requests for legal opinions, reportedly saying he had asked for opinions and his request was not returned.

At that point there was a vote to terminate and both Beaulieu and Thibeault voted in favor of firing Sessler.

"Unfortunately Mr. Thibeault and Mr. Beaulieu left the town with no attorney," Rawson added. "I believe there were personal feelings and they got in the way of the decision that was made."

Rawson also criticized Beaulieu and Thibeault for not going through the process of an Request for Proposal to test the waters for a new attorney rather than fire Sessler without a replacement, but Thibeault claimed that if they had done that Sessler would have resigned.

"Still it was a poor decision," fired back Rawson, who had been a longtime supporter of former Selectmen Chair Beaulieu. Beaulieu made no comment on Monday during the discussion regarding Sessler's firing during a back and forth between Rawson and Thibeault.

Just a couple of days after the firing, Town Administrator Heather Thibodeau reached out to Attorney Walter Mitchell of Mitchell and Associates of Laconia, whose firm agreed to take over legal representation for the town at an hourly rate that varies, according to which staff is involved in the consult.

The hourly rate would range from $70-$210, Thibodeau said on Wednesday.

In Sessler's most recent budget year, about $30,000 was budgeted for his services, Thibodeau added.

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