Despite Discontent, County Legislature Approves Outside Legal Aid for Dispute

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

New City – Amid debate, the Rockland County Legislature’s Planning & Public Works and Budget & Finance committees approved an extension of their agreement with the law firm of Harris Beach, PLLC to continue litigation stemming from a particularly difficult lawsuit filed against the county by West Gate Landscaping, Inc.

The suit, which is seeking $5 million in compensation for what Westgate claims was an improper termination of their contract to drain Naurashuan Brook, recently progressed to a point where the county is pressing for summary judgment. That move could end with the dismissal of the suit.

West Gate filed a motion in opposition, which the county must reply to by January 11, 2013, but will require preparation long before that point.

“We have the opportunity to file a reply, and we just need more money from the legislature to put into the accounts so we can pay the council we’ve had for years,” Executive Director of Rockland County Drainage Agency Vincent Altieri stated.

The vote was almost unanimous, with the sole dissenting vote coming from Legislator Alden H. Wolfe, who stated that he was not ready to be restricted to county executive C. Scott Vanderhoef’s decision to hire private counsel when the county attorney’s office is qualified to handle the matter.

“I’m not prepared to be bound by the county executive’s decision, particularly when it’s a decision when if I was asked my opinion at the beginning, I would disagree with,” Wolfe said.

Several legislators, including Joseph Meyers and Harriet Cornell, stated that time was too short to reconsider who represents the county in the suit.

Legislator Ilan S. Schoenberger supported the measure to continue Harris Beach’s services, stating that with West Gate requesting a seemingly excessive $5 million in damages-which Schoenberger stated was “disproportionate” to the cost of such a contract-the private firm’s experience was required.

“When you have a contract litigation, you are principally suing for the damages under the contract.” Schoenberger said. “You can’t be suing for millions of dollars for wrongful termination.”