A move by Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith to hire a Garden City law firm to advise the town on its position in the Calverton land deal was shot down by the town board’s Republican majority today.
During a contentious special meeting of the Riverhead Community Development Agency this morning, board members Jodi Giglio and Tim Hubbard rejected a resolution to appoint the firm of Stagg, Terenzi, Confusione and Wasnik to advise Riverhead on the status of its contract with Calverton Aviation and Technology in light of the recent legal and financial woes of CAT partner Luminati Aerospace.
Councilman James Wooten said he does not favor appointing any new outside legal counsel. He said he believes the town already has competent outside counsel who negotiated the contract, knows it intimately and can advise the town board on what its options are.
That left the supervisor without enough support to pass the resolution appointing the Garden City law firm.
Giglio, who yesterday said the firm’s selection was “political patronage” because it had made campaign contributions to Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone and the Babylon Town Democratic Committee, objected to the supervisor directing the town attorney to research three law firms of her choosing — without consulting the rest of the town board.
Hubbard said he favors seeking advice from a new outside counsel, but said the selection process should involve the board interviewing prospective firms, as it has done in the past.
“That was not done, as it was in the past,” Hubbard said. “That’s just wrong.”
Town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said he intended to suggest the board table the resolution anyway. “The vetting process has to be done very quickly,” he said. It includes looking at a firm’s background and its areas of expertise, as well as doing a “conflict check.”
Kozakiewicz said his office could handle that, but it’s not their role to “make the call” about whom to hire.
He said each of the three firms Jens-Smith asked him to look at were “well-qualified.”
During a public comment period, Kathy McGraw of Northville said the town should formally adopt a written procedure and standards for hiring outside counsel. She called the current process “haphazard.”
Angela DeVito of South Jamesport said she was disappointed by the process that’s taken place. She accused the board of playing politics.
“We need you to put aside being idealogues. We need you to pick up the mantle and govern,” she said.
“Put aside your ideologies and do the good work.”
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