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McKinstry: Clarkstown quickly sheds Joseph Savino amid corruption scandal

Joseph Savino, Bronx County Republican Party chairman, exits

Joseph Savino, Bronx County Republican Party chairman, exits federal court in White Plains after being arraigned on fraud and bribery charges. (April 2, 2013) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

In firing scandal-tarred lawyer Joseph Savino, Clarkstown leaders acted swiftly in dealing with a potentially explosive situation.

But let's not break out the good government awards just yet.

Savino is the Bronx Republican Party boss whose White Plains-based law firm was hired by Clarkstown last year to handle tax-challenge cases even though he apparently had little expertise in that area. The contractual job came with a nice $87,000-a-year retainer that was recently increased by $1,740.

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The board still has some explaining to do about why it hired him in the first place. In canceling Savino's contract on Tuesday, board members said in a statement the firm "would not be able to fulfill its contractual obligation to the town under the present circumstances."

Ya think? That sure sounds like an understatement.

Savino, who lives in the Bronx and has another home in Congers, is among six elected leaders and party bosses facing various bribery and corruption charges.

Federal officials have accused him and the others in a plot to sell the Republican ballot line in a New York City mayoral primary to state Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat.

In the federal complaint, Savino reportedly received tens of thousands of dollars with the promise of much more. There are also charges of fraud against the two Spring Valley officials -- Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret. They are accused of manipulating a land deal in return for cash and the prospect of collecting part of the profits.

It's all part of what the U.S. attorney in Manhattan called a "corridor of corruption" that includes New York City, Rockland County and the state Capitol.

Savino's firm was first hired by Clarkstown in 2012, after the board fired its deputy town attorney, Marsha Coopersmith, who had served in that role for 15 years. She had also been the chairwoman Rockland County Independence Party, but lost that post in 2010.

At the time, critics in Clarkstown said Savino -- a former senior aide to Sen. Guy Velella (R-Bronx), who did some prison time for bribery -- wasn't properly vetted.

And now those same critics could easily pull an “I told you so." And they'd be right.

Something wasn't quite right with Savino's hiring then. That's more apparent now.

Tags: Clarkstown , New York City , mayor , Joseph Savino , GOP , Republicans