Home News Legislature hires special counsel to block Dems from getting attorney

Legislature hires special counsel to block Dems from getting attorney

Legislature hires special counsel to block Dems from getting attorney

GOSHEN — The Orange County Legislature decided on Thursday afternoon to spend $50,000 hiring a private attorney to defend Legislative Chairwoman Katherine Bonelli’s decision to decline to defend four of her fellow lawmakers against a possible lawsuit because they had raised concerns about the StarCIO contract for information technology services.

In October of last year, Senator James Skoufis (D, Cornwall) organized a news conference where lawmakers including Democratic minority leader Michael Paduch, Genesis Ramos, Laurie Tautel, and Mike Anagnostakis questioned the legitimacy of a contract that StarCIO’s owner had been awarded for information technology services. Langdon Chapman, the County Human Resources Commissioner, has a brother-in-law who owns the business.

Benjamin Allee of Vankwitt, LLP in White Plains, who represents StarCIO, addressed a letter to the legislators after the news conference stating that the firm is thinking about suing them for what it claims were false and defamatory remarks.

Because Bonelli felt the remarks made at the press conference were political in nature and were not made by the lawmakers acting in their official capacities, she informed the Democratic lawmakers who had doubts about the contract in February and informed them that they would not be reimbursed if StarCIO filed a lawsuit.

After being denied legal counsel, the four lawmakers hired Michael Sussman, a Goshen attorney, on a private basis. On behalf of his clients, Sussman filed an Article 78 motion, requesting that the court reverse Bonelli’s ruling and compensate the lawmakers.

The resolution, which was added at the last minute and was not on the public agenda, was accepted on Thursday and will allow Bonelli to employ any outside counsel she wants to fight Sussman’s effort. All Republican members and one Democrat, Kevindaryn Luj n of Newburgh, voted in favor of the motion, which was proposed by Majority Leader Tom Faggione. The sponsor of the resolution, the chairwoman, and the parliamentarians did not debate the vote.

In reaction to the news conference in October, Bonelli called for the formation of a special legislative task force to investigate the county’s technology contracts, voicing concerns about the information technology contract that had grown from a two-month $65,000 deal to a year-long engagement of over $800,000. Although the task force’s final report, which the legislature received on Thursday, stated that the contract was obtained against county policy, it concluded that no unlawful activity had occurred. The FBI has started looking into the issue as well, although it hasn’t yet released the results.

Senator Skoufis, for his part, thinks the resolution is a form of vengeance against the lawmakers who exposed the contract issue.

At the October 25 press conference outside the county government building, he remarked, “to suggest the legislators weren’t acting in their official roles, exposing wrongdoing in a county contract and being introduced as county legislators is as stupid an argument as they come.” Remarkably, Katie Bonelli decided to support corruption despite an FBI criminal investigation, likely as retaliation for the lawmakers who exposed some of her political allies as scam artists. The fact that taxpayers will now have to pay for her retaliation is the only thing that makes her decision even more despicable.

On March 22, a State Supreme Court judge will hear arguments from Sussman and the special attorney that Bonelli will appoint.

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