Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett announced Monday that the city has hired an Annapolis law firm as its principal legal counsel, breaking decades of tradition of using Harford County lawyers for such duties.
Bennett said the City of Aberdeen's new counsel will be the law firm of Council, Baradel, Kosmerl and Nolan, P.A., of Annapolis. Fred Sussman would be the primary attorney for the city, Bennett said.
"He's had a long and distinguished career in the state of Maryland," Bennett said. "Eighty percent of his practice revolves around municipal governments."
Bennett added that Sussman had represented the city in different prior cases, and that Suellen Ferguson would be the city's alternate partner with the firm.
The hiring of the Annapolis firm means the city has severed ties with Stark & Keenan of Bel Air and Elwood V. Stark, one of the firm's senior partners, who was the lead counsel for Aberdeen. The change also breaks a several-year streak during which Stark & Keenan has represented all three of Harford's municipalities, with partner Charles Keenan serving as chief counsel for the Town of Bel Air and partner Paul Ishak serving as chief counsel for the City of Havre de Grace.
Bennett said Tuesday that the change in the city's lawyers was effective Monday.
"We had lost confidence in the one law firm and it was time to go to another law firm that was a little bit less involved in the county so the conflict of interest was a lot less," Bennett said. "The [new] firm has a great reputation as being municipal attorneys."
Bennett said a variety of reasons led to the switch.
"It was a number of things over the years, like not having timely responses," he explained. "We felt like we weren't getting the service that we needed and we made a change. That's the bottom line."