Lang: I’d serve full time as city’s mayor

By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer

This article appeared on October 22, 2005 in the Standard Times
NEW BEDFORD — Responding to criticism that he would be a part-time mayor if elected, attorney Scott W. Lang reiterated that he will not close his law office but that he will be a “24-hour, seven-day-a-week mayor.”

In a meeting with the editorial board of The Standard-Times, Mr. Lang said that what he does as a lawyer is “represent my clients in a dogged way. I want to represent the city in a dogged way.”

If elected mayor, Mr. Lang estimated that he will spend an hour in the early morning and an hour in the evening at his law practice of Lang, Xifaras and Bullard, consulting on legal issues with a team of four attorneys. He also would spend some time on weekends at the firm, catching up with work and planning.

He said he does not imagine a scenario in which he will have to appear in court for the firm. He said he will manage his team of lawyers, give them advice and let them do their work.

“I actually don’t see that I’m going to have a lot of demands from the law practice,” he said.

“The idea that I would close the business is ridiculous,” he said. “Becoming mayor is a public service for me, not a change of career. I fully expect that I’ll have a law practice to return to.”

He said he will be at City Hall when it opens and will be there when it closes, every day. He said he will be available after hours and on weekends when crises inevitably develop.

Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr., whom Mr. Lang is attempting to unseat in the Nov. 8 municipal election, made a point several times at Wednesday’s debate at the Fishermen’s Club in the South End that he is a full-time mayor. He said Mr. Lang could not juggle the demands of being mayor with a law practice.

Mr. Lang said that at his firm, his team of four attorneys operates separately from those of the firm’s other partners, Margaret “MarDee” Xifaras and Peter C. Bullard, who each have their own teams.

All income from those segments is kept separate, he said, with the exception of office expenses, which are shared equally.

Then there is the issue of conflicts. Mr. Lang represents the bus drivers union in negotiations with SERTA, the regional transportation agency. He said that if he is elected, he will notify the union that he can no longer represent it.

He said he will not represent any business or union that does business with the city, and will ask his law partners to refrain from that, as well.

“If doesn’t smell right, we’re not going to do it,” he said. “I have always been careful about real conflicts and perceived conflicts. We don’t get into them, we just won’t do it. I don’t want the headaches. I’m not going to make money off relationships with the city.”

William M. Straus, a state representative, is an attorney “of counsel” at Lang, Xifaras and Bullard. He has represented the city’s firefighters union since 1985, and all his correspondence on behalf of the union goes out on the firm’s letterhead.

(Mr. Lang represented firefighters for two years, from 1983-85, but gave it up when John K. Bullard was elected mayor. Mr. Lang was Mr. Bullard’s campaign manager in the 1983 and 1985 mayoral campaigns.)

If elected, Mr. Lang said that Mr. Straus would break away from Lang, Xifaras and Bullard and launch his own law firm.

“This issue on conflicts, I’m not going to represent anyone who does business with the city, and I don’t want any of my partners doing business with the city,” Mr. Lang said.

Mr. Straus said he suggested a separation when Mr. Lang entered the race for mayor in August.

“I told him, ‘If this thing goes on a roll, there is going to have to be a clear separation, so nobody has any questions about it,'” Mr. Straus said.

The integrity question is too important to both of us.”

Mr. Straus said that none of the money he earns representing the firefighters union goes to the firm. Mr. Straus said he does not contribute to the overhead of the office, as the partners do.

“My practice is my own,” he said. “Payments are made to me, not the firm. I pay (the firm) for the supplies I use, and that’s it.”