A Boston contract dispute has arisen at a Middleboro gas and electric board, which questions whether the general manager of the operation has a valid contract or is even legally the leader of the department.
Our Boston contract dispute attorneys understand that this involves a government contract that the individual had with the town’s gas and electric commissioners.
The board voted to fire the acting general manager (contract or not) after certain of his actions were called into question. Namely, he had gotten into the habit of staying in local hotels after late meetings and during particularly bad storms. He then would send the bills to the taxpayer-funded G&E.
Additionally, the general manager would attend conventions that lasted two and three days, but was then reimbursed for longer trips. It was later determined that the commission was also subsidizing his dues for the Rotary Club, as well as meals at the club’s weekly meetings.
Those are all serious allegations, but what is really being called into question is whether the commission can fire him at all, or whether he has certain protections as stated in a contract he signed in 2009. The general manager and his attorneys say that in 2009, he signed a contract with the man who previously served as the commission’s chairman. That contract, he maintains, is legally binding.
However, that chairman was not re-elected to office (he opted out at the last minute). The commission maintains that it was in the midst of talks with the general manager to determine the details of his contract. Yet they maintain that the contract the general manager signed was not formally approved by the board – and therefore, doesn’t hold any legal merit. They contend that means they can fire him at any time, without cause.
Meanwhile, the commission is undergoing a forensic audit of all its finances. Due to that, the commission has voted to suspend any contract talks until the audit is finished. So in the meantime, they plan to continue to allow the general manager to maintain his current duties – but say they won’t concede that he has any rights to the position.
Of course, our Boston business lawyers can’t parse out who is right and wrong from a few media reports. What is important to note in this whole dispute is that any time you sign a contract, it’s critical to have an attorney review it to ensure that you are on solid legal footing before signing it. In this case, the commission is not contending that there is no contract – just that it’s not legally valid. But if this general manager signed on with the commission chairman, it’s likely he had no reason to believe the contract wasn’t legally binding. He likely skipped having it reviewed by an attorney because he figured his I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed.
This case illustrates why you can’t always trust even the words in black and white, without input from an experienced business attorney.
A Boston corporate law firm, The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us through this website.