Executive session scheduled on city litigation on water issues

WESTFIELD – In response to a motion made by At-large Councilor Brent B. Bean, II at the March 15 City Council meeting requesting an executive session to discuss litigation and lawsuits pertaining to the water situation in Westfield, a Special City Council meeting has been scheduled for April 25 for the purpose of going into executive session.

Westfield City Solicitor Susan C. Phillips (WNG File Photo)

In her response to the motion, City Solicitor Susan C. Phillips said she has invited to the meeting Attorney Kevin J. Madonna “to relay certain information relative to the pending legal matters.” Kennedy & Madonna, LLP is the firm that is representing the City In the lawsuit against the three manufacturing firms of firefighting foam used by the Air National Guard at Barnes Air National Guard Base: 3M Company, Chemguard, Inc., and Tyco Fire Products L.P.
Phillips included in her letter to city councilors the following brief biography of Attorney Madonna:
Kevin J. Madonna is a partner in the law firm of Kennedy & Madonna, LLP and works as counsel for Morgan & Morgan. He specializes in complex environmental and consumer litigation matters in federal and state courts.
Prior to private practice, Madonna served as Executive Director for the Waterkeeper Alliance, the umbrella organization for 125 Riverkeeper organizations operating throughout North, Central and South America, Europe and Australia. He also worked with the University of Chicago National Opinion Research Center, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, United Nations Environment Programme, United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the State of New Jersey Office of the Environmental Prosecutor.
Madonna earned a Juris Doctorate and Environmental Law Certificate from Pace University, where he served as Research and Writing Editor for the Pace Environmental Law Review.
In her letter, Phillips went on to give a statement regarding the obligations of executive session, adding in advance, “This will afford certain councilors the opportunity to excuse themselves from a privileged conversation because they would prefer to provide active or public support to the municipality’s legal foes.”
The statement said that questions and answers concerning claims and defenses, litigation strategy, and settlement options are protected as confidential pursuant to attorney-client privilege. “The privilege enables the municipality to obtain the effective assistance of counsel by assuring that you can ask questions about this lawsuit without inhibition, and that I can provide frank and candid legal advice,” Phillips wrote.
Phillips called it the “fiduciary duty” of the councilors to maintain the confidentiality of the executive session. She said despite sympathies, councilors “must not disclose any portion of this privileged discussion: whether by offering comments quoting statements made (here tonight) by your colleagues or me, or by conveying the ‘gist’ of your colleagues remarks or my advice.”
“If you do not believe you can fully comply with this obligation to maintain confidentiality because of your personal sympathies or political allegiances, you should voluntarily excuse yourself,” Phillips said at the close of the letter.
“I think it’s important that we as Councilors better understand the City’s legal strategy as it relates to holding the polluters accountable. An executive session allows for a more detailed discussion of that strategy,” said Bean, as to why he requested the executive session.

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