BRA lawyers don’t do eminent domain

The Boston Redevelopment Authority has eight attorneys on staff, but apparently none of them are qualified to do eminent domain work.

Records indicate the agency farms out the eminent domain work to James Masterman of the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, who bills the BRA $385 an hour. On two cases, the agency paid the firm $252,000 in legal fees plus over $28,000 in expenses, according to records obtained in August and September.

BRA Director Peter Meade and general counsel Kevin Morrison declined repeated requests to discuss their outsourced legal work. Herbert Gleason, a former chief city attorney reviewed the resumes of the on-staff attorneys and concluded they lack the skills to handle any cases that depend on the valuation of property.

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“The BRA should have trained their own inside attorneys to do this kind of work years ago so they wouldn’t have to shell out so much in legal fees now,” said Gleason, who passed away in December.

The BRA paid Greenberg Traurig $91,000 in legal fees to renegotiate a deal with the Boston Red Sox that would close off the portion of Yawkey Way abutting Fenway Park on game days for use as a food and entertainment court and maintain the Green Monster seats in the air space over Lansdowne Street.

The BRA also paid Greenberg Traurig $161,000 in legal fees for an eminent domain case involving the taking of two properties in Roxbury’s Dudley Square as part of the city’s plan to revitalize the area and move city departments there.