Clarkstown Residents Persist In Questioning Savino Hiring Process

Series of questions posed to individual town board members



In order to adhere to the Clarkstown Town Board’s comment period of three minutes, seven Clarkstown residents took turns summarizing various events that directly involved or involved associates and to ask questions about the process that led to his hiring. In early January, the town board approved by a four to one vote retaining Savino’s law firm to handle its tax certiorari cases. Community members have questioned the process that was followed and asked for additional information and insight at prior town board meetings.

At Tuesday’s town board meeting, Ralph Sabatini of New City outlined the change in leadership of the Rockland Independence Party from Marsha Coopersmith to Debra Ortutay.  Coopersmith had been the deputy town attorney handling tax cert cases until the end of 2011 when her position was eliminated. She had been replaced as Independence Party chair by Ortutay who was indicted on perjury and fraud charges and represented at trial by Savino, who is the Bronx Republican Party chairman.

Sabatini was followed by Michael Hull of Bardonia who posed four questions to Councilmember George Hoehmann. One of the questions was “When did you and the other members of the Town Board authorize Ms. Mele to draw up the formal resolution to retain Mr. Savino on which you voted at the Town Board meeting in January 2012?” 

Amy Durbin directed her queries to Councilmember Frank Borelli. One of the four questions was “First, with reference to the executive session in which the retention of Mr. Savino was discussed, were you made aware of any bids solicited from firms in Rockland County with tax cert experience? And when did you evaluate any such bids with your fellow board members? And what criteria were used to evaluate the bids? If you did not evaluate or review any other bids, do you not think it was the Board’s responsibility to undertake this evaluation process itself and not delegate it to Ms. Mele? ”

Gerry O’Rouke of Congers directed his questions to Councilmember Stephanie Hausner, who had voted against hiring Savino.  “Second, what are the names of the other law firms that you said were more qualified and came with less baggage and why was one of them not chosen over Savino?” he asked.

Frank Grandel of New City addressed Councilmember Shirley Lasker with his questions. “First, what criteria did you use to select Mr. Savino?” 

Borelli responded to the questions asked of him with brief answers that he was not aware of an FBI investigation of Savino, or connections between Savino and other political party officials and had not received advice concerning Savino from the Rockland County Republican Committee. He did say he had met Savino prior to his appointment by the town board.

Mike Hirsch of New City asked Supervisor Gromack, “Second, did you know when you voted for Mr. Savino’s retention that Mr. Savino had links to Mr. Mangone and that Mr. Savino was subpoenaed in February 2010 along with the Bronx GOP’s representative on the Board of Elections? If you were not made aware of these issues at the time of your vote, now that you know about these issues, would you have changed your vote?”

Tom Nimick of New City had questions for Town Attorney Amy Mele, who was not at the meeting. Among them was “First, what list of standards and list of requirements did you use to vet Mr. Savino and the other firms?”

They presented the board members with packets including their questions and numerous media articles about Savino and other political leaders. 

Gromack said, “I don’t know Mr. Mangone and most of the stuff from my point of view that you spoke about Mr. Savino a lot of that I’ve never heard of so I wouldn’t know.” 

Gromack said Mele would respond to questions at the next meeting. 

“She can certainly answer it at the next meeting. As I recall she interviewed and did some outreach to a number of firms but it would be best left to her to answer that at the next meeting,” he said.  

After the meeting, Gromack said he also met Savino at a social function before the town retained his firm. 

stephany June 21, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Someone needs to look into how when and why Amy Wagner Mele was appointed Town attorney. I mean, is there a law that says someone from the Wagner family tree HAS to be in the town attorneys office at all times.. let alone be the town attorney. This is not the only dept they have infiltrated either.
F*** June 21, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Thank you all for getting in Gromack's face. Good job!
MitchP June 21, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Agreed - Thank You All !!
Watchdog June 21, 2012 at 03:04 PM
The coverup will be worse than the crime.
moving asap June 21, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I have lived 30 years in new city and not once did my family ever see the personell dept advertise for openings in various depts for jobs , everything was political patronage I think this should be investigated.
Watchdog June 21, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Does Gromack have Google? If so, wasn't he even a little curious about Savinos ties to Mangano?
Watchdog June 21, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Ever hear of David Wagner?
Brenda M June 21, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Great questions and great article! http://newcity.patch.com/blog_posts/clarkstown-and-africa-friends-and-phone-calls Vote Sabatini next time around! This would never have happened if he had been elected the supervisor.
Watchdog June 21, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Watchdog June 21, 2012 at 04:58 PM
What would you like to be accomplished here?
Watchdog June 21, 2012 at 05:04 PM
BR... Are you comfortable with the vetting process for Savino? Are you comfortable that Savino was chosen from a list of qualified attorneys? Do you have any concerns? Are you aware that the Westchester DA is presentlyfryingbigger fish and will eve tually get to the smaller fish? Manganous is still singing. Savino has offices with Manganous. OH SOLO MIO
Mike Hirsch June 21, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Transparency in government and hopefully qualified individuals being hired by our elected representatives rather than them giving jobs to their political supporters who are not qualified.
MitchP June 21, 2012 at 06:08 PM
A measure of accountability?
Watchdog June 21, 2012 at 08:11 PM
BEN has gone black.
BenRound June 21, 2012 at 09:13 PM
No, Ben has a life and can't sit all day on blogs. That said, I'm following this story and just asking what the goal of this inquiry is. Is there an illegality here or something else other than allegations of patronage?
Tony T June 21, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Check the Clarkstown Personnel Dept. it must be the only personnel department in a community our size that does not post jobs electronically on their web site. They are still posted in a dark corner in Town Hall. Why????
Mike Hirsch June 21, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Ben, It is first about transparency in government. There is a NYS open meetings law which our elected representatives are just now starting to get acquainted with. Secondly, it is about hiring the most qualified employees with our tax dollars. I am sure you would agree that you would like our elected representatives to spend your money on talented, experienced candidates rather than on less qualified applicants for political purposes. Pretty simple.
Scott Donovan June 22, 2012 at 08:27 AM
stephany June 22, 2012 at 04:13 PM
you mean her father who had to retire before she could be elevated to Town attorney after about 2 yrs on the C payroll and not even in the actual town attorneys office. She had to be somewhere on the C payroll because it would look too much like this case if she was not. Clarkstown is like the Holy Bible where things are written down way ahead of when the are supposed to happen, and they they magically happen, only the actual moment in time is uncertain The players are set in stone practically from birth. When Holbrook left it was Gromacks turn. Him not having any supervisory experience had nothing to do with it. It was in the plan, especially with the failed RC supervisor attempt. He had to take over immediately without benefit of any election in order to be the incumbent and run as such. If he waited till Nov. and had an opponent with actual experience he would have lost and that would throw everything out of kilter and may even mean the end of the world Both Gromack and Mele are very similar to this savino case
Get Professional Help June 22, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Mike Hirsch, have you ever talked to J Savino? Have you bothered to look at all the work he has done for Clarkstown in a mere 6 months? I don't know about you, but saving taxpayers money, disposing cases in the town's favor, oh yea, and winning a major appellate division decision this weeks seems to me that he is more than qualified. I think at the next meeting you should walk up to each of the members of the board and thank them for their choice. Then I think you should go to Ms. Mele and apologize profusely for wasting her time and doubting her ability to make an informed and proper decision.
Mike Hirsch June 22, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I don't think that will happen.
Maureen June 22, 2012 at 05:46 PM
This is a lovely one - someone who writes with a plea to <get professional help> argues that - a)  saving taxpayers money, b) disposing of cases in the town's favor and c) oh yea, winning an appelate division decision - could not have been achieved by numerous Rockland County firms who according to Councilwoman Hausner were more qualified and who may have better respect for the Federal judical system. I think at the next meeting Mr. Gromack should stop hiding behind Ms. Mele and stop trying to shift the blame onto her. I hear that is what he did at the meeting. The way he is handling this she may be next on his Coopersmith list.  And apologize?  From what I have heard in the halls the past several days, three of the town board members were apparently unable to respond to simple questions from the people who elected them. So save your tears for Ms. Mele and the town board members - Savino has probably profusely eaten his way through what the town has paid him already. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/bronx/bronx_gop_boss_is_out_to_lunch_and_U4cVh1KmZ4KBGPpKM9gU7H Maybe he will toss her a crumb from his table?  But then she didn't let him take on the Palisades Mall tax case - nope - she needed some serious help with that one! I think she retained him so he could take the real lawyers out for lunch on the really important case the town has to win? But then with a thought like that you might tell me that I should get professional help. And you might be right ;-)
Get Professional Help June 22, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Maureen: If you did your research, rather than just google Mr. Savino, you would have learned that with exception of one, none of the school boards' are represented by Rockland County attorneys. This is done because if the Town had hired a rockland tax cert attorney, it would have essentially killed their practice because they would have had a conflict of interest. The pennies that Mr. Savino's firm is receiving is nothing compared to what Rockland tax cert attorneys make. And also, once again had you talked with an informed opinion, rather than out of else where, you would have realized that Kaye Scholer was hired three years ago, long before Mr. Savino was hired. Mr. Savino has already written two appeals, numerous motions, and appears in court to represent the town every time (or a representative of his firm).
Maureen June 22, 2012 at 08:09 PM
 Dear One in Need of Professional Help: This is really very sad.  You don't seem to get it.  I don't care if Mr. Savino is the greatest tax cert attorney in NY State.  What I care about is that as an attorney Savino is an officer of the court.  So is Mele.  Reading the reports in the Westchester media it is alleged that he dealt with a Federal judge's request for help by suggesting that peoples' cell phones might click off.  If that is correct then I do not want Savino anywhere near me - you see I can't trust him and I would regard that activity as highly unethical.  Mele is an officer of the court too.  As I understand what the Clarkstown Taxpayers are asking is if she properly vetted him?  If she knew about this then why did she propose his appointment? If she didn't know about it then she didn't properly vet him!  And as to my research, apparently Councilwoman's Hausner's research is the research that started this inquiry by the taxpayer group.   She says there are other firms better qualified and she says Savino comes with baggage.   Go talk to her - she is strangely silent on the matter. 
Watchdog June 22, 2012 at 08:12 PM
GPH, How come we had to hire Kaye Scholer when we were paying Coopersmith? Did you tell Hausner that she was all wet when she said we had more qualified attorneys with less baggage than Savino? Did you ask Hausner if she discussed the contents of Savinos Baggage with Gromack, Borelli (who has noclue) or the other Town Board members?
Get Professional Help June 22, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Upon review of the article you referenced, it appears that Mr. Savino never had any contact with a federal judge. Nor is there any indication that he was even aware of a federal judge's directives. The transcript simply says that his employer spoke to his coworker and the coworker asked Mr. Savino to interpret his employers intent. Please read it again. Further more, it was never reported in the westchester media, it was however reported in the most credible of all perodicals, the village voice. Are you next going to tell me that Mr. Savino is an alien, as may have been alleged in the national inquirer.
amy durbin June 23, 2012 at 03:57 PM
GPH: you seem to have a lot of knowledge about Savino (in fact since you are not using your real name -- you might even be him) so maybe you can tell me why Savino lives in Congers (around the corner from Gromack) in a home in his wifes name so that he can maintain an address in the Bronx in order to remain the Bronx Chair of the Republican party?
Watchdog June 23, 2012 at 04:32 PM
GPH, Amy Durbin makes a great point, Please answer her. Thanks Watchdog
INTHEKNOW June 23, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Maybe he wants to keep up with the NYC council member who lives in Valley Cottage, or the Bronx Assembly members who live in Westchester>>???


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