Rye City Mayor Douglas French called for the resignation of Rye Republican Committee Chair Anthony Pisconere on Dec. 18 in an email to the press (read it here.)
Later that day, Pisconere and Councilman Joseph Sack, who is on the litigation committee French named in his statement, responded to French's statement. See their statements below.
Piscionere's response to French's Statement:
I am writing in response to Mayor French’s e-mail calling for me to step down as the Rye GOP Chairman. Mayor French alleges a “conflict of interest” that simply does not exist. The City, as well as several Police Officers, are named defendants in a lawsuit that was commenced in 2007. I have had the honor of representing one of Rye’s fine Police Officers in that civil rights suit brought by a Rye resident. My firm began representing our client in March of 2009. Doug French has been Mayor since January of 2010. We were not selected by the City Council, nor the Mayor, but by our client individually, as was his right under the Public Officers Law. It is our understanding that, typical of cases like this and many that we have handled, the City of Rye has a self-insured deductible of $50,000.00. That means that all legal fees above $50,000.00 are the responsibility of the City’s insurance carrier. Due to the number of attorneys and the length of this litigation, legal fees have far exceeded $50,000.00, but the City is not ultimately responsible for the sums in excess of $50,000.00. As such, the Mayor is completely off base in his allegations.
That leaves one to question why the Mayor would make such a baseless allegation now, especially since he has been sitting as Mayor for three years. The reason may be that the Mayor desires to run for re-election and is well aware that I am not supportive of his re-election. While I am only one vote on the Rye Republican Committee, it is well known publicly that I believe that the Mayor has mishandled many important decisions relating to this City and I, in good conscience, could not support his re-election. Additionally, were he to run in 2013, the Mayor’s well known ethical issues would likely be an unnecessary distraction from the important issues facing Rye. It would appear that this extremely belated false allegation of a “conflict of interest” is the Mayor’s preemptive strike to try to clear the path to enhance his diminishing chances of being nominated for re-election by the Rye Republican Committee.
This is further evidenced by the fact that the Mayor chose to attack me by press release instead of contacting me to discuss this matter in a professional way. This is just another example of Doug French’s failed leadership at the helm of this City and why he does not deserve another term as Mayor.
Anthony G. Piscionere
Piscionere & Nemarow, P.C.
Sacks' Response to French's Statement:
The case to which I believe the mayor is referring is the Caspi case, which has been pending for many years. In that matter, Caspi is suing the city, as well as individually named police officers. Each party has separate counsel. Tony Piscionere represents one of the police officers, and has done so for many years as well.
To my knowledge, the city council had no role in selecting any of the lawyers on the case. Further, the city council has had no role in reviewing or approving payment on any bills submitted by these attorneys. It is my understanding that those functions are handled by the city’s insurance carrier, probably in consultation with city professional staff. This type of arrangement is, I believe, typical for other such litigation matters historically in the city.
As I understand it, the mayor is alleging some sort of conflict in that Mr. Piscionere is the Republican party leader, but I just don’t see what that conflict could be under the circumstances. Again, Mr. Piscionere represents one of the officers, not the city. The city has its own lawyer, who advises the city council on how to handle the case. I frankly do not see the connection that the mayor is trying to draw, nor do I know why he would try to do so. I don’t recall that the mayor ever spoke about it to me before. As far as I know, this has not been an issue over the past three plus years, including during the meeting of the council’s litigation committee earlier this year.
Obviously, the council always has an interest in managing litigation and controlling costs, regardless of whether the bills are being paid by an insurance company. It is our goal that, at the appropriate time, there will be a fair resolution to the Caspi matter that protects the interests of the city, and that is amenable to all the other parties, plaintiff and defendants alike. It is unfortunate that the mayor has injected an element to this case that does not belong, but I am hopeful that the mayor’s actions will not adversely affect the city’s ability to defend its position.