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Jun 9, 2010 11:54 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board debates who will handle MTA lawsuit

Jun 9, 2010 11:54 AM

The Southampton Town Board voted Tuesday to spend up to $50,000 to hire an attorney from Smithtown to represent the municipality in its lawsuit challenging the payroll tax imposed a year ago by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The resolution allows Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Town Attorney Michael Sordi to sign a retainer agreement with John Denby of Devitt Spellman Barrett LLP in Smithtown to handle several aspects of the case, which was initiated by seven Long Island towns in April.

Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, a sponsor of the resolution, emphasized the importance of the lawsuit against the MTA and the negative effect the tax has had on businesses and municipalities, saying it justifies the money the town must spend on outside counsel. “This rises to the level of being worthy of that type of investment,” Mr. Nuzzi said.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Town Board member Bridget Fleming voted against hiring outside counsel. Ms. Throne-Holst explained that Southold Town officials had said they might split the attorney’s bill with Southampton but had not committed to shouldering half the cost. Also, the supervisor said Mr. Sordi should be able to handle the case.

The board debated the matter at its work session last Thursday, June 3, and again at its meeting Tuesday. Ultimately, Mr. Nuzzi garnered the support of Town Board members Jim Malone and Nancy Graboski, and the resolution was approved.

When the resolution was discussed during the Town Board’s work session on Thursday, the proposal had no limit on how much the town could end up paying Devitt Spellman Barrett. Ms. Throne-Holst noted that the town has already gone through half of the $900,000 budgeted for legal fees for outside counsel—and that prompted Mr. Nuzzi to put a $50,000 spending cap on the retainer.

Southampton Town joined the towns of Brookhaven, Huntington, Smithtown, Islip, Riverhead and Babylon in filing the lawsuit challenging the validity of the MTA employer payroll tax in April. The tax was instituted in May 2009 and under its terms, $3.40 is levied on each $1,000 of payroll expenses for entities—businesses and municipalities alike—within the 12-county area of the MTA.

New Police Hires

The Town Board also hired four new police officers to fill vacant positions in the force. The new officers are Kristie Dahlen, Peter Dancona, Daniel Stuckey and Eric Girardin. Mr. Stuckey and Mr. Girardin, who have completed training at the police academy, will earn $47,109.75; Ms. Dahlen and Mr. Dancona, who have not, will earn $43,234.69.

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We're in an 8 million-dollar hole -- a hole the Republicans put us in -- and yet Chris Nuzzi wants to spend $50,000 on outside counsel when our new and highly qualified Town Attorney, Michael Sordi, is more than competent to handle the matter. Mr. Sordi, remember, is the first person to break the legal logjam over the trailers for homeless sex offenders, getting us first a TRO and now a permanent injunction against Suffolk County's new trailer, so he has an early and impressive track record. Plus ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jun 14, 10 11:21 AM
Agreed, what is wrong with the new town attorney? Perhaps they are regretting his hire? Sounds fishy to me.
By lablover (104), Southampton on Jun 14, 10 11:56 AM
If Chris Nuzzi wants it, its bad for the Town. We have our own counsel, why do we need to hire Chris's friend.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jun 14, 10 12:03 PM
The only platform we need to file suit are the words:

"GROSS FIDUCIARY NEGLIGENCE."

The execs took, and took, and stole, and took. The result is NO working capital for a "rainy day", and a s**tload of debt to go with it.

There was no fund to accomodate failure, ego and arrogance striding hand in hand did not allow for it.

"We can't fail. We are the best, most educated, and brightest."

BY WHOSE STANDARDS?

The status quo is not what the answer ...more
By Mr. Z (11676), North Sea on Jun 14, 10 8:57 PM
Is this more cronyism on the part of the Southampton Republicans? Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone wouldn't hire a Sustainability Coordinator when there was a grant to pay that person's salary -- it would have cost the Town zero -- but now they want to spend $50,000 on outside lawyers when we have a perfectly good town attorney, with an able and well-paid staff of lawyers working for him. We have a captive law firm in this group of lawyers we employ full-time. There is no need to retain outside counsel ...more
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Jun 14, 10 10:54 PM
Messrs. Nuzzi and Malone have some explaining to do. Maybe I'm wrong, but it sounds like these guys are singing a very old song that goes like this:

You take care of your good pals
And they'll take care of you.
You don't need a reason,
It's just what you do.

You help me and I'll help you,
That's how you make your mark.
If you can't do it in the light,
Just do it in the dark.

Retainers, contracts, no-show jobs,
With these we get our way.
Just ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Jun 14, 10 11:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
Isn't that why we employ a town attorney?
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jun 17, 10 7:44 PM