YORKTOWN - Two resolutions proposed by Councilman Ed Lachterman to get new legal representation for the town and separate counsel for himself and Councilman Tom Diana were both voted down at a meeting Oct. 15
Lachterman read the resolutions as the meeting ticked on toward 1 a.m.
Lachterman and Diana, both Republicans, voted for the resolution to hire separate legal counsel for themselves; Supervisor Ilan Gilbert voted against the resolution while Councilwoman Alice Roker and Councilman Vishnu Patel, all Democrats, abstained. Diana and Lachterman also voted in favor of the resolution to issue a request for proposal for a new town attorney; Gilbert, Roker and Patel abstained.
According to Gilbert, he abstained from the resolution that proposed an RFP due to it being “blatantly unfounded and untrue.” Gilbert said he voted against the resolution to hire separate legal counsel because “the idea, for political reasons, hiring an attorney for separate council people sets a terrible precedent.”
Patel said he abstained from voting because the information Lachterman revealed was confidential. Roker did not return a request for comment.
Lachterman proposed the resolutions following a press conference on Oct. 7 where he claimed that the town's legal representation, the Oxman group, had a conflict of interest as Marc Oxman had represented Edward Ciffone pro bono while Ciffone was suing the town for using town funds to hire legal representation for former Supervisor Michael Grace in a complaint against him from former town supervisor Susan Siegel.
Because of this, Oxman received an admonishment from the New York State Attorney Grievance Committee.
In voting against the resolution, Gilbert called proposals “politically motivated” and told Lachterman the admonishment was confidential and revealing it was in violation of the law.
“What you got was a letter indicating there was an admonition, it said it was confidential and privileged,” Gilbert said. “In order to divulge an admonition, there is a remedy to go to the appellate division of the first judicial department and show good cause to do so. You did not do that. You violated the rules of confidentiality without abiding by that section.”
In response, Lachterman read out loud the state law regarding rules about admonition, but stopped halfway through and said “I thought this was an appellate, but I don’t have an attorney in town to go to.”
In 2018, town attorney Michael McDermott resigned and the Town Board voted 3-2 to hire the Oxman Group, who appointed one of its attorneys, Richard Abbate, to fill the role.
Lachterman and Diana filed a complaint at that time with the Grievance Committee for the conflict of interest.
However, according to Oxman and Abbate, the lawsuit was dormant and there was no litigation going on with the case. They also said the case was passed to a different firm before the official appointment of the Oxman group.
“Prior to my appointment as Yorktown Town Attorney in January of 2018, I properly transferred the case to another attorney,” Oxman said in a press release. “The case then lied dormant for months for the reason that the relief sought, an injunction to prevent payment was after the fact. The improper payment of Grace’s attorney fees had already been made. The case effectively being over, I omitted to assign the representation of the town board to outside counsel. It slipped my mind… oops.
“Councilman Lachterman and Diana jumped all over this, and filed conflict of interest complaint against me with the New York State Attorneys Grievance Committee. I was not disciplined. Rather, I accepted an admonishment, and told to be more careful in the future,” Oxman continued.
Further, Oxman said he personally told Lachterman and Diana that the disclosure of the admonishment “is an outright violation of the law.”
“So what’s the story here. That Marc Oxman was admonished by the grievance committee? Hell no. The story is that the Yorktown Republican Party repeatedly goes after well respected Democrats in an endeavor to promote their own political self interest,” Oxman said. “It’s vile and repugnant practice, and it must be called out.”
In a statement, Lachterman said he and Diana "felt the need to publicize the Committee’s findings (against Oxman) after a recent ethics ruling was stifled by Supervisor Gilbert’s office for six months following an 18-month investigation by the town’s ethics board of Yorktown Councilman Vishnu Patel.”