ALBANY -- The Village of Freeport won't have to pay the legal tab for former Freeport Mayor William Glacken and other officials after they refused to sign a settlement in a long-running lawsuit involving developer Gary Melius, New York's top court ruled Tuesday.
Melius had filed a lawsuit in 2003 that claimed the village tried to seize his Brooklyn Water Works property through a deed scheme. The village in 2009 had offered to resolve a separate suit that individually targeted Glacken, former village attorney Harrison J. Edwards and four former officials. But the former officials rejected a clause in the settlement that required them not to disparage Melius.
The village then dropped its defense of Glacken and the others; they sued the village to regain representation and indemnification, claiming the gag order in the settlement would have violated their First Amendment rights.
On Tuesday, the state Court of Appeals ruled against Glacken.
In a 6-1 ruling, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wrote for the majority: "We hold that a municipality . . . may withdraw its defense and indemnification of current and former municipal officials and officers in a civil action for their failure to accept a reasonable settlement offer, and that First Amendment concerns with respect to the settlement's nondisclosure clause do not warrant a different conclusion."
Stanley Camhi, the attorney who represented Freeport, said the lawsuit against Glacken and the other officials was settled prior to the court's decision Tuesday. So the practical question in the case became, "Does the village need to reimburse them?" Camhi said. Information about the settlement amount wasn't immediately available.
The attorney who represented the officials before the Court of Appeals didn't return calls to comment.