Two New York State Supreme Court judges in Nassau County have recused themselves from presiding over a legal battle between the Town of Hempstead and the former operator of a town-owned golf course, court records show.
Timothy Driscoll recused himself from the litigation between the town and the operator, Double Eagle Golf, on Oct. 29. Driscoll had presided over the proceedings since its inception in 2017. The case was then randomly reassigned to Vito DeStefano, who recused himself Nov. 15.
Newsday on Nov. 11 reported on an Oct. 25 affidavit by Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen indicating that Double Eagle had paid a company controlled by Nassau County GOP chairman Joseph Cairo $922,800 from 1999 to 2014 for work related to the course.
Neither judge provided a reason for their decisions in their recusal orders. Driscoll and DeStefano’s secretary on Monday referred questions to court spokesman Daniel Bagnuola.
Bagnuola said: “There's no law or statute that requires a judge to give a reason why he or she recuses themselves.”
Double Eagle operated the town-owned Lido Beach Golf Course from 1997 to 2017, when its contract expired and the town retook control of the facility. The company sued Hempstead in May 2017, arguing the town owed it $776,400 for capital improvements it carried out following superstorm Sandy in 2012. The town countersued, saying the company was contractually obligated to cover such costs, but the company had let the facility deteriorate.
The company and town reached an $85,000 settlement in court in April, but the Hempstead Town Board last week unanimously rejected the deal. Gillen, a Democrat, cited Cairo's financial ties to Double Eagle as a reason for opposing the settlement. The board's four Republican members declined to comment on their votes last week. Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, the board's other Democrat, did not respond last week to a request for comment.
Driscoll and DeStefano belong to the court’s commercial division. The division’s website lists two other judges. Bagnuola said Tuesday the case has been randomly reassigned to Jerome Murphy.