Clarkstown Town Board members flatly rejected a request from a newly formed citizens group to retain an independent firm to conduct an audit of the town attorney’s office. The request by “Clarkstown Residents Opposing Patronage” was based on their claim that Joseph “Jay” Savino was not properly vetted when his White Plains firm was hired in January 2012 to manage tax certiorari work for Clarkstown and that political patronage is rampant in the town attorney’s office.
The group’s directors, Michael Hull of Bardonia, and Ralph Sabatini and Thomas Nimick of New City presented the five town board members with a Notice of Claim at the end of the Tuesday night meeting indicating their intent to take legal action. , was arrested last Tuesday and charged with bribery in a federal investigation that included several other political leaders.
Town Supervisor Alex Gromack said the board acted appropriately upon hearing of Savino’s arrest and immediately met in special session to decide what to do. The board wound up which had been renewed for a second year with a fee increase. Gromack said Savino’s firm satisfactorily handled more than 300 tax cert cases for the town and noted Savino had not been accused of any wrongdoing in Clarkstown.
Councilmember Shirley Lasker said she had voted to hire Savino based on information provided to the board and that he could do the work at a lower cost than the deputy town attorney who had previously handled it.
“I don’t agree with doing an audit of the town attorney’s office,” she said.
Councilmember Frank Borelli said he did not find fault with the steps that led to Savino’s hiring.
“I don’t see any issue with the process and as a result of that I will not be moving for an audit,” he stated.
Councilmember George Hoehmann said he had discussed the political corruption arrests with the Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe who told him that he respected the work done by Town Attorney Amy Mele. Hoehmann said he would not request an audit.
“Feel free to serve me with the papers,” he said.
Councilmember Stephanie Hausner, who initially voted against hiring Savino in 2012, had voted in favor of his contract renewal because Mele was pleased with his work. She said she did not see a need for the audit.
“I will not be threatened, I will not be bullied by a lawsuit,” said Hausner.
After the meeting, Nimick explained the audit request was specifically made at a public meeting.
“We wanted to give them the opportunity to take action before any legal action was taken,” Nimick said. “We had hoped for better. We think the concerns raised especially about the vetting process have not been addressed.”