Patrick Alair will replace Joseph O’Brien as corporation counsel for the Town of West Hartford effective Aug. 2, 2016.
By Ronni Newton
Two retirements in West Hartford’s Office of Corporation Counsel will take place this August, with Joseph O’Brien retiring from the appointed position of corporation counsel and Patrick Alair retiring from his full-time position as deputy corporation counsel and taking over O’Brien’s position.
“I was scheduled to retire and we were going to hire someone,” Alair said. Kimberly Boneham, who currently works for the town as assistant corporation counsel, was going to take his position, and a new assistant would be hired. Then O’Brien decided he wanted to give up the appointed corporation counsel role and concentrate on the private practice he had maintained all along.
When O’Brien announced his resignation effective Aug. 1, 2016, Alair was the immediate first choice.
On Tuesday night, the West Hartford Town Council unanimously approved Alair’s appointment as corporation counsel. His initial appointment is to serve the remainder of O’Brien’s outstanding term, through Dec. 21, 2017.
“We are getting decades of experience for not even one more dime,” Mayor Shari Cantor said. “We are so lucky to have [Alair’s] expertise.”
Alair has worked in West Hartford’s Office of Corporation Counsel for 30 years – since Aug. 1, 1986. Sixteen years ago he received the “deputy” designation; prior to that he was an assistant corporation counsel. Throughout his tenure as a town employee, Alair has worked for four different corporation counsel, two Democrats and two Republicans, he said.
The Town Council first appointed O’Brien corporation counsel 14 1/2 years ago. Unlike Alair, he has not been a town employee. The position is classified as an independent contractor and is paid through a monthly stipend which equates to $42,500 per year. Certain other expenses for job-related travel or seminar costs are also reimbursed by the town. Alair’s contract specifies that he will be paid the identical stipend to that previously received by O’Brien.
Alair said that while the structure of the Office of Corporation Counsel has changed over time, for as long as he knows the appointed position of corporation counsel has been a part-time contractual position in West Hartford. “I am being appointed to serve the legal interests of the town, to provide legal advice to the town and the [Office of Corporation Counsel],” Alair said.
Between the full-time attorneys in the Office of Corporation Counsel and the corporation counsel, it’s an incredible workload, Cantor said. “They’re in charge of all education issues. They need to know contract law, employment law, real estate law.”
O’Brien, who previously served on the West Hartford Town Council, said that he has been in the position of corporation counsel longer than any of his predecessors.
He said he will turn 66 this fall, and is ready to focus just on his private practice, perhaps reducing that to part-time. His wife retired four years ago, he said.
O’Brien said having Alair take over the position will be a “very smooth transition.”
The corporation counsel job doesn’t have set hours, and although times have been calmer over the past few years, O’Brien said that from 2001-2011 there were many major issues requiring his input. Those issues ranged from serving liquor at the Pond House, to family memberships at the town-owned pools, to a lawsuit involving Blue Back Square.
“It’s been great. I’ve loved every minute of it,” O’Brien said. “It’s been really good to work with the Town Council, town manager, and my colleagues in the office,” he said.
As Boneham moves into the deputy corporation counsel’s role, Garmon Newson, has been hired as assistant corporation counsel. Alair said that the town received 90 applications for the position.
“He comes incredibly highly recommended,” Cantor said.
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