Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Weirdness

The Widget:

Court: Appeals Court
Judge: Mills
Subject: Municipal law
Tone: Befuddlement-inducing
Importance: 1.2

Okay. We’re about to get hypertechnical and then confused. Be warned.

The Suffolk County Sheriff tried to enter into a ten year, $7 million lease for office space. In order for the lease to be enforceable, the City of Boston (which controls the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office) needed to have its auditor “certif[y] thereon that an appropriation is available therefor or has cited thereon the statute under authority of which the contract is being executed without an appropriation.”

This lease incorporated the following imprimatur from the auditor’s office: “APPROVED AS TO AVAILABILITY OF APPROPRIATION OR PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 12.2 OF THE GENERAL CONDITIONS IN THE AMOUNT OF $0.00.”

Pardon? $0.00?

And so, of course, the Sheriff broke the lease and the landlord sued. And the landlord, of course, lost. Because, as the Appeals Court held today in Bradston Assocs., LLC v. Cabral, Mass. Appeals. Ct. No. 06-P-1844, the lease was not enforceable to begin with. Why didn’t the landlord catch this? Why did the auditor include an utterly inscrutable certification on the contract? It almost looks like the city tried to fool somebody who was willing to be fooled.

This may just be what happens when turnout is fourteen percent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When the Sheriff's Department terminated the lease, it didn't do so because of the missing auditor's certification. It terminated for a much more pedestrian reason: the landlord had not completed construction work required under the lease within the time permitted. The landlord had a creative lawyer who argued, the first time the case went up on appeal in 2004, that in light of a statute applicable only to Boston and Suffolk County contracts, the time for construction had not begun to run until the mayor approved the contract, which, if true, would mean that the Sheriff's termination was untimely and improper.

Only on remand did the Sheriff's Department raise the statute's requirement of an auditor's certification. So the landlord was hoist by its own petard.