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Yorktown Board Approves DiBartolo's Private Attorney in Lawsuit

Attorney Sokoloff's fees would not exceed $200 per hour plus "reasonable and customary disbursement, subject to the town attorney’s approval of the legal invoices.

Yorktown town board members agreed on Tuesday to let highway superintendent Eric DiBartolo hire a private attorney to represent him in a on behalf of the town.

Attorney Brian Sokoloff was approved with a 4-1 vote to represent DiBartolo in the lawsuit. Last week, in favor of paying for the highway superintendent's legal fees.

In both cases, councilman Vishnu Patel was the only one who voted in opposition. 

In the lawsuit, resident William LaPierre  while in office. LaPierre seeks to "recoup damages" for the town.

Subject to the town attorney’s approval of the legal invoices, according to the adopted resolution, Sokoloff's fees would not exceed $200 per hour plus "reasonable and customary disbursements."

Town attorney Jeannette Koster has considered the issue of potential conflict of interest and would not represent DiBartolo in the lawsuit, according to town board members. 

Sokoloff represented a council member in a recent lawsuit unrelated to the LaPierre case, and is currently representing the town and certain police officers in another unrelated lawsuit.

Active Yorktowner March 21, 2012 at 04:00 PM
So, I totally disagree with the town paying for Mr. DiBartolo's defense as there is still a clear conflict of interest. That being said, they voted and that is what is going to happen. My compromise at this point would be, should Mr. LaPierre prevail and the finding is that the town should recoup their money, then Mr. DiBartolo at that point should also reimburse the Town for his failed defense.
Francis T McVetty March 21, 2012 at 05:58 PM
This sounds strange to me. [Town attorney Jeannette Koster has considered the issue of potential conflict of interest and would not represent DiBartolo in the lawsuit, according to town board members.] What is the conflict? Why do WE have to hire another lawyer. I think that the supervisor and the town council should look to replace Jeannette Koster. It seems that she has problems with cases involving the town. Is she or is she not the towns legal council? Why don't we just hire Brian Sokoloff,as the town attorney and save some money?
Active Yorktowner March 21, 2012 at 06:19 PM
It's very simple...there is a clear conflict. If DiBartolo wins, then everything is a-okay. If DiBartolo loses, then the town stands to "recoup" money damages due to misappropriation of funds. You don't see a conflict? Clean your glasses.
Jay Horgan March 21, 2012 at 10:27 PM
It would make sense that if any wrongdoing is uncovered, I would only hope that Eric would be liable to repay the town for the legal support he recieved. As a public official, He should held accountable for his actions.
Francis T McVetty March 22, 2012 at 06:54 PM
You are right, I wouldn't trust her either to defend me. Now I see the conflict, its all about the money.
Aristotle March 22, 2012 at 09:34 PM
An address by George W. Pring on October 14, 1989 at Pace University Law School during a conference concerning Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation. "SLAPPs strike at a wide variety of traditional American political activities. We have found people sued for reporting violations of law, writing to government officials, attending public hearings, testifying before government bodies, circulating petitions for signature, lobbying for legislation, campaigning in initiative or referendum elections, filing agency protests or appeals, being parties in law-reform lawsuits, and engaging in peaceful boycotts and demonstrations. Yet these are among the most important political rights citizens have. The apparent goal of SLAPPs is to stop citizens from exercising their political rights or to punish them for having done so. SLAPPs send a clear message: that there is a "price" for speaking out politically. The price is a multimillion-dollar lawsuit and the expenses, lost resources, and emotional stress such litigation brings. This is a message with import for every American, activist or not. As these suits become an increasing (and increasingly known) risk for the ordinary citizen who decides to speak out on a public issue, SLAPPs raise substantial concern for the future of citizen involvement or public participation in government, a fundamental precept of representative democracy in America." DiBartolo's lawsuit is a SLAPP against Gulitz and LaPierre. Will he sue us next?
Francis T McVetty March 22, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Aristotle, the problem could be solved if the court, when ruling one way or the other, attaches court costs to the loser. I do know that the Trial Lawyers Association was against this idea because it would reduce the amount of frivolous law suits. Your thoughts?
Aristotle March 23, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Mr. McVetty I agree with you. Why is it that now-a-day people need to have an attorney on speed dial? Why is it that a citizen taxpayer can no longer speak out at a public forum for fear of being sued? Why is it that government officials can say and do whatever they want and be protected by town codes? Town codes that in many cases are wrong! Why is it that when a person speaks out they have to fear a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation? Why doesn't the town have a warning sign posted above the podium that says "Unless you have professional indemnity insurance for at least $2 million you should not address the town board for fear of being sued!" Why is it that citizens such as Mr. Gulitz and Mr. LaPierre who have only spoken the truth at town board meetings are castigated by the press? Why, because the press is fearful of reprisal from the officials? It's time for the taxpayers in this town to stand up with Mr. Gulitz and Mr. LaPierre and say we stand with you! I hope the DA and Attorney General are reading this!
Confused March 24, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Someone should try to find out if the law firm that took the case initially is going to be reimbursed for the work already done up until the point when the town board voted to approve DiBartolo's hiring of a private attorney. He went out and hired the Bellantoni law firm for the lawsuit against the two gentlemen and then was presented with the lawsuit from Mr. LaPierre. Since he did this without board approval he should not be allowed to submit the bill from that firm. He should absorb the cost himself. Just wondering if anybody heard anything different. Francis, what's your take since you are a stickler for following the rules.
Francis T McVetty March 24, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Confused, the law firm he hired to sue both parties has to be paid by him. He initiated that action. The Sokoloff law firm is being used is to defend him against charges when he was acting as an agent of the town. I think two different circumstances. As usual we need a lawyer to sort this all out.
Confused March 24, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Francis thanks for your response. I was told that the Bellantoni law firm also represented Mr. DiBartolo in the lawsuit by Mr. LaPierre. My question is should the Bellantoni law firm be paid for the work they did in that lawsuit? The reason I ask is because I heard they did a lot of work for him prior to the town board passing the resolution for him to hire a private attorney. As we now know the attorney chosen to represent him is Brian Sokol. Mr. Sokol is charging $200 per hour. What if the Bellantoni law firm charges $250 per hour and has already done $10,000 of work for the lawsuit by Mr. LaPierre. Should they be reimbursed for that work? I do not believe the resolution allows for that stipulation. In my opinion DiBartolo should eat that expense. What's your opinion? By the way this would make one hell-uv-a reality TV show.
Francis T McVetty March 25, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Confused, I'm confused also. {I was told that the Bellantoni law firm also represented Mr. DiBartolo in the lawsuit by Mr. LaPierre.} If Mr.DiBartolo seeks to be reimbursed for this then he will present that bill to the town council for payment. The town council along with council, will make that determination. The question is, was the Bellantoni law firm representing Mr. DiBartolo as a town employee? If they were, was the town notified? Did Mr.DiBartolo know that he was covered by the town for his actions while doing his duties as highway supervisor? There is a lot WE don't know. I'm sure this is going to be all sorted out. What a mess the past supervisors have left for Mr Grace!!!
C Gajowski May 17, 2012 at 12:47 AM
More confusion. Is it the town or Mr DiBartolo doing the hiring? Is whatever transpires between DiBartolo and "his" attorney Sokoloff privileged, as in not available to the town itself? And no cap on how much they will pay? This could go on and on. And it isn't exactly like turning in lunch receipts for reimbursement. The town is taking a de facto position that not only was there no misconduct on the part of Mr. DiBartolo BUT that whatever language used by Mr LaPierre ( is outside of protected political commentary. It is't a horse I bet on - and i don't think taxpayers should foot the bill.

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