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Mam'k Trustee Questions Hiring of Attorney

[Editor's Note: Trustee Ryan read the statement below at the reorganization meeting of the Mamaroneck Village Board on Monday, December 7. By a vote of 3-2, the board appointed Christie McEvoy-Derrico as Mamaroneck Village's part-time attorney.]

Appointment of New Attorney:

Spiraling, out-of-control legal costs led to the adoption of Local Law 13-2007. One of the reasons I originally ran for office was because I believed there was a better way to handle our legal needs than with a part-time attorney whose meter was always running.

At the request of former Village Trustee Tom Murphy, three prominent attorneys, Ira Millstein, John Romans, and Eric Rieder, all Village residents, considered ways the Village could reduce legal costs and avoid adverse litigation results.

In their letter of recommendation dated May 8, 2006, they recommended, “hiring a Village Attorney who is not a partner or employee of an outside law firm retained by the Village.” They said they believed that “the Village of Mamaroneck would benefit from having its own legal officer to provide wise counsel, and to monitor, supervise, and in some cases handle directly some of the Village’s legal matters.” Additionally, “the Village Attorney would not be associated with the outside law firms retained by the Village, but would be a Village employee who would either perform the work, or advise the Trustees in selecting, only as needed, the outside counsel best suited to the issues at hand, to ensure that the work is performed in a cost-effective manner.” Also, “A Village Attorney could also provide advice to Village officials about potential disputes before they ripen into lawsuits, minimizing unnecessary litigation.”

On September 11, 2007, the Village’s Budget Committee wrote: “The Budget Committee strongly recommends that the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees hires a full-time lawyer. At this point and time, it would be more cost effective to hire a lawyer as a Village employee.”

On October 22, 2007, Local Law No. 13-2007 was adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Village of Mamaroneck. Updates to the Code were made on July 1, 2009. It appears in our Code under Chapter 78, VILLAGE ATTORNEY and states under Chapter 78-5. Term; compensation; status; dismissal: “….the Village Attorney…shall be an employee of the Village employable by the Village and shall be subject to dismissal by a majority of the Board of Trustees.”

This is the law under which we are to hire and dismiss a Village Attorney. It is clearly stated that the Attorney is an employee of the Village. I don’t know if the new attorney will be an employee of the Village.

I have other concerns as regards the proposed part-time attorney.

o How was this candidate chosen? Who was involved in that process and what, in fact, was the process?

o What are the requirements for the position – how many days a week will she be required to spend in Village Hall?

o Where is her resume and more important the Contract explaining her responsibilities, her salary, the expectations this Board has of her, and who had input into creating this information?

o What is her experience in municipal law?

o Is anyone else concerned about what appear to me to be conflicts of interest:

1. Her law firm appears before Village boards and commissions. I’d like the opportunity to check with the New York Conference of Mayors legal department as well as our own Ethics Committee to make sure this is, in fact, not a conflict.

2. Her husband is the Chair of the Republican Party in the Town of Mamaroneck, and he works for a legal firm that we had a relationship with in the past. Based on his own email to the Village Manager on November 28, 2006, is the potential for future business with his firm a concern?

Again, the lack of process in advancing this appointment is of major concern to me. People on the street knew about it before I, a member of the Board, knew about it.

I would like to suggest this appointment be tabled until this Board can discuss some of these concerns and at least see the contract and the resume.

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1 comment to Mam’k Trustee Questions Hiring of Attorney

  • PJ

    The argument has merit, there is a lot of credence to this article. By having a VILLAGE attorney employed by the village this person has a job to protect and will have village interests at the forefront. The biggest obstacle here is to find the right person at the right price, and that is a big obstacle.The village would do well to find somebody not related to any local firms or affiliations.The price is the problem; a retired or unemployed attorney would be a good start.