2007-02-22 / Front Page

Town Council names new town solicitors

By Dotti Farrington

The Town Council Tuesday voted 4-1 to name Peter Ruggiero of Warwick town solicitor and Carolyn Mannis of Providence town solicitor for criminal prosecution.

Councilor Barbara Szepatowski voted against the motion because she wanted Mannis as sole, primary solicitor.

Both lawyers have been working for the town since August 2003 as associates of recently-resigned Town Solicitor J. William W. Harsch, with Ruggiero handling labor matters and Mannis serving as prosecutor. (See related story on page 14.)

The council motion did not specify fees to be paid to either of the new solicitors. Ruggiero presented a proposal for his firm to do all town legal work, including the prosecution of criminal cases, for an annual retainer of $80,400. Mannis offered to continue as prosecutor for an annual retainer of $30,000. The council motion also did not include the terms the new solicitors would serve, although their terms are expected to be until the council election in November, as discussed during the interviews of the solicitor candidates.

Eleven lawyers or groups of lawyers vied for parts or all of the town's legal work. Mannis, with a proposal originally only for prosecution, was asked if she could be available for all legal work, and she then submitted a supplemental proposal.

Ruggiero's associates include Christopher Orton, a lawyer since 1992, who will handle zoning matters, and Wyatt Brochu, a lawyer since 1997, who will handle planning matters. Ruggiero will be primary solicitor for the council and town administration.

Ruggiero, also a lawyer since 1997, earned his bachelor's degree in 1978 at Rhode Island College, a master of community planning degree in 1980 from the University of Rhode Island, and law degree in 1997 from Boston University. Both Ruggiero and Mannis have been town solicitors or assistant solicitors in other muniicipalities.

There was relatively little discussion about the appointment vote. Council Vice President Julio DiGiando and Councilor William Kelly said other candidates were also worthy of selection. Kelly noted his appreciation for the work and guidance from Harsch, and that Ruggiero was "admirable," and rose to the top of the matrix system he used for scoring the candidates.

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