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.