Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke and five city council members demanded in a Jan. 29 letter that Councilwoman Marsha Silverman resign from office or get her wife to drop a lawsuit against the city.
The letter said the lawsuit created a conflict of interest that Silverman could not resolve by simply recusing herself from matters related to the lawsuit. Silverman has not resigned and her spouse, Roni Epstein, has not dropped the lawsuit challenging the city’s approval of an apartment building next to their home.
"I ran for office to ensure the city follows local and state law and to bring transparency to how decisions affecting all Glen Cove taxpayers are made," Silverman said Monday during a virtual news conference. "I will not be stopped by the outrageous ultimatum presented to me by the mayor and other members of the City Council."
Tenke said in an interview Wednesday that the letter was not intended as an ultimatum, rather the city wanted to resolve a conflict before hiring legal counsel to defend the city in the lawsuit.
"I am not disputing whether or not Roni Epstein has an absolute right to bring this lawsuit," Tenke said. "What I dispute is doing it while she has a spouse who is a councilwoman."
Tenke and the rest of the council have interpreted the lawsuit as a "contract" under a state statute that prohibits municipal officers from having an interest in contracts that they have the power or duty to approve. Tenke said Silverman’s recusal on matters related to the lawsuit was not enough to resolve the conflict. Silverman said at her news conference that a contract under state law means goods and services, not legal actions.
Prior to her election in 2017, Silverman and Epstein unsuccessfully sued Glen Cove to try to stop the project proposed by developer Livingston Development Corp. Epstein alleges in her new suit, filed in December, that the city improperly approved revisions to the project that allow the developer to build apartments instead of condominiums as originally proposed.
On Tuesday, the City Council retained two legal firms to represent it in the case during an emergency council meeting.
Epstein called into the meeting to say that she had the right to bring the lawsuit and that it had nothing to do with her wife since Silverman had recused herself on matters regarding it.
"This is my lawsuit. We are not the same person," Epstein said. "I can make a decision for myself. You have no idea what goes on in our life. This is my home. I owned it before she ever moved to Glen Cove."