At the Clarkstown Town Board reorganization meeting in early January, a majority of board members voted to hire the White Plains law firm of Faga Savino to handle its matters. This followed the board vote at the end of December to not renew its contract with Deputy Town Attorney Marsha Coopersmith. At that time Town Supervisor Alex Gromack stated the move to an outside firm would save the town between $75,000 and $80,000.
Since then, Town Attorney Amy Mele has explained how Joseph J. Savino’s firm, Faga Savino, was selected. She reached out to a few firms she was familiar with to request quotes. Savino’s quote was described as the most competitive.
“I just started with a few places that I knew had done work for municipalities in different areas,” she said.
In addition to firms in which Savino is a partner, she contacted law firms in Westchester and on Long Island. When asked why she had not included Rockland County based firms, she responded that no Rockland firms came to mind.
“I was going to firms that were a little bigger than your standard Rockland County firms,” Mele said.
Stephanie Hausner was the only board member to vote against the hiring and voiced concerns about the selection.
“I think there are more qualified firms in the county that have more experience handling tax certiorari,” she said. “That is primarily what we were looking to hire a firm to do.”
Hausner said an Internet search produced other local firms with more experience.
Mele noted Savino’s firm would also handle small claims against the town and it was not necessary for the firm handling the tax cert and small claims work to be located in the county. She said most tax certs are heard in Rockland and the majority of small claims cases are heard in Westchester. Other work the firm may handle could include involvement in pilot program in assessment disputes.
Mele did not think it was essential for the firm, which lists three attorneys on its website, to have experience in the municipal side of tax cert cases. The firm does not include municipal tax cert work as a specialty or primary area. The following information is provided online by Faga Savino:
Tax Certiorari Proceeding
Real property taxes are of paramount importance in New York State, and we are actively involved in all aspects of this practice. Our clients include individuals, business and property owners.
An opportunity to continue to handle tax cert work for the town was not offered to , who was the chair of Rockland’s Independence Party until 2010. She earned $126,590 as a deputy town attorney.