Questions hiring of Greenberg Traurig and five months of secrecy about $500,000 of billings
By Josh Resnek
Outspoken city activist and watchdog Jon Puopolo believes the mayor had a responsibility to inform the city council of his decision to hire the same firm that represents him to represent the city in the Federal investigation now underway.
“I believe the mayor should be called to the chamber and censured with a no confidence vote for sand bagging the city council and every tax payer in this city,” Puopolo told the Leader Herald.
The city hired Greenberg Traurig without notifying the city council for five months.
Two weeks ago, the administration came to the city council to ask for a $500,000 appropriation to pay for legal fees generated by Greenberg Traurig presumably for the defense of the city against the Federal investigation and not for the mayor’s legal expenses.
However, no invoices were shown nor details of the cost of the representation discussed.
Councilor Mike Marchese said he will be asking the administration for details about the cost for Greenberg Traurig’s legal expenses at an upcoming meeting of the city council.
“We just can’t be handing out $500,000 payments when we know nothing about them,” Marchese told the Leader Herald.
“Not only that, we have been told that another $500,000 legal bill is already well on its way,” Marchese added.
Only two councilors questioned the original request for $500,000.
Councilors Stephanie Smith and Darren Costa expressed surprise and dismay about the request for $500,000.
“Where have you been for five months?” Smith asked Greenberg Traurig counsel Linda Ricci and Assistant City Solicitor Keith Slattery.
Neither directly answered the question.
Slattery said Greenberg Traurig was giving the city discounts on the cost for its representation.
Ricci said her job was to get going immediately, and without delay, to defend the city against a possible Federal court case.
Other councilors remained silent, asking for no details whatsoever before unanimously voting to appropriate the $500,000.
“He hid the hiring of his private attorney’s firm to benefit himself and protect himself from the title 7 investigation for 5 months before he revealed this! Let’s be honest, the violations happened on his watch!” Puopolo said.
The mayor has been represented by Greenberg Traurig’s Attorney John Pappalardo for about three years.
The Title VII Federal investigation is apparently going back five years for information related to possible charges against the mayor and the city for racism, discrimination, and retaliation.
Puopolo sent the following statement to all the members of the city council.
“He (the mayor) ran up a bill for $500K with millions likely to follow, as we were publicly told. He waited until his lawyers firm became deeply embedded in the investigation and payment was due before informing the council and the taxpayers that he needed $500K to pay his attorneys whom he already engaged without any open discussion or appropriation. He put the council in a no option position but to pay the initial $500K of taxpayers funds with many more payments to follow,” Puopolo said.
“This was clearly not an oversight but planned, a manufactured crisis to force the desired outcome, have his lawyers involved in his Title VII defense. What are you all supposed to do, fire his firm 5 months into their work and not pay the $500K? This was calculated!!! We see through the deceptive actions, I hope you do as well,” he added.