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Long Beach council to waive attorney-client privilege in payout probe

Long Beach City Hall on West Chester Street

Long Beach City Hall on West Chester Street in Long Beach on Dec. 17, 2014. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The Long Beach City Council voted 7-0 Saturday to waive their attorney-client privilege as part of the city's payout investigation.

The resolution, approved at a meeting at City Hall, authorized Long Beach City Council President John Bendo to enter into an agreement between the city and the Nassau County district attorney's office. The agreement will allow prosecutors to question elected officials and obtain records regarding payouts at the end of 2017.

A report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office said that the city improperly paid more than $750,000 to at least a dozen city management employees, including $108,000 paid to former City Manager Jack Schnirman when he was elected Nassau County comptroller.

The district attorney’s office and a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York are investigating the payouts. The district attorney’s office in November asked the City Council to waive their attorney-client privilege so investigators can learn what advice its legal staff and Anthony Capozzolo, the city’s outside attorney, gave to the city and its employees.

At the special meeting on Saturday, resident Linda King asked the council whether there was a time frame for the investigation.

Chris Powers, the city’s outside counsel, responded that while the district attorney’s office had “thoroughly” investigated the matter, he didn’t see the investigation “drawing out too long.”

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said he supported the council’s decision, calling it a “very transparent move."

“I don’t see any reason why every record, every piece of witness testimony, every single fact should not be turned over and reviewed,” Kaminsky said, pointing out that the investigation was ultimately to find out what happened to taxpayers’ money.

During the roll call vote, Karen McInnis, the council's vice president, thanked residents who she said sent emails and “countless phone calls” on the issue, as well as others who had spent “hundreds of hours researching this matter.”

“Our government must not be left unchecked,” McInnis said.

Bendo echoed those sentiments in his remarks during the vote.

“This is what you elected us to do, to get to the bottom of things. I vote ‘Yes’,” Bendo said.

The handful of people who attended the meeting applauded after the board vote was finalized.