Smithtown town board members split hairs on retaining a new attorney to serve as council to the town planning board.
The town board Thursday voted 4-1, with Councilman Edward Wehrheim dissenting, on both terminating an agreement with Lucretia M. Lucivero to serve as counsel to the planning board and retaining the legal services of Joseph E. Chicvak as the planning board’s new attorney.
The vote ended a retainer agreement with Lucivero dating back to 2013 and established an agreement with Chicvak, effective January 20, 2016, to undertake defense of the planning board in litigation at a fee of $135 per hour, not to exceed $7,500 without further authorization from the town board.
Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said, “The rule is the planning board chooses its own counsel.” He said that newly appointed planning board chairman Conrad A. Chayes tapped Chicvak for the role.
But Wehrheim said he took issue with cutting Lucivero, saying he had never heard a complaint about her. He said he had no idea who Chicvak was and would not vote for any attorney if he did not know if the person was capable of performing the job.
“If Mr. Chayes wanted to choose a new attorney for the planning board, as the chairman he has an obligation to advise all members of the town board who that person is and supply us with background information,” said Wehrheim, adding he did not receive Chicvak’s resume. “I’m not going to vote to expend taxpayers’ money on an individual that is proposed to be an attorney to handle litigation for the planning board when I have never even met this person or been supplied with any background on him.”
But Chayes defended the appointment as the prerogative of the planning board.
“It’s not for town board review,” he said, adding that the town board’s sole role is to approve the retainer since they hold the purse strings. “We have a new board now and a new chairman, so I decided maybe we needed a fresh approach.”
Chayes said Chicvak, 29, is a graduate of Notre Dame Law School and currently works for the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County on felony and misdemeanor cases.
Attempts to reach Chicvak and Lucivero were unsuccessful.
Chayes said appointments in the past “came out of the political clubhouse.”
“This time we reviewed resumes and chose somebody based solely on qualifications,” he said. “I think it’s the old-boy network at the clubhouse that is miffed that their person was not reappointed.”
But Wehreim called Chayes’ statement “childish” and “immature,” and reaffirmed that “it would be irresponsible of an elected official to expend taxpayer dollars without vetting an applicant.”