A Suffolk County judge, recently assigned to preside over the City of Long Beach’s lawsuit against two former city managers, will hear a request Friday for a change of venue.
Long Beach filed a $2.4 million lawsuit in July against Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, a former city manager, and Rob Agostisi, former corporation counsel and former acting city manager, seeking to recoup employee separation pay and to hold them personally responsible for a decade of overpayments.
The suit alleges a history of retirement incentives and overpayments of accrued vacation, personal and sick time to city employees and an agreement to pay Schnirman and Agostisi their accrued time in full, which officials say violated city code.
The Nassau County district attorney on Wednesday declined to file criminal charges against Schnirman after a two-year investigation. City officials said a federal investigation by the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s office is ongoing.
State Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Alan D. Scheinkman in Albany reassigned the civil case last week from a Nassau judge to Suffolk County Judge Joseph A. Santorelli, but with Santorelli hearing the case in Nassau Supreme Court.
The reassignment was not made with any explanation, but Santorelli will hear the change of venue motion Friday and oversee the case.
Schnirman filed a motion in August to move the case to Manhattan, and Agostisi asked to move the case to Queens, arguing a conflict of interest in Nassau County, where Long Beach Councilman Scott Mandel worked as a judge’s clerk and is now an associate court attorney in the Nassau County Law Department.
Mandel voted with the City Council to pursue litigation and also previously worked with the city’s outside counsel, Hauppauge-based Ingerman Smith, which was tasked with recouping payments. Mandel was also screened for a potential Nassau County judgeship, Schnirman and Agostisi argued in the motion.
"In light of Mr. Mandel’s extensive connections to this Court — as a former Principal Law Clerk to a justice, current Associate Court Attorney in the Law Department, and potential candidate for his own judgeship — it would be inappropriate for this case to proceed here, and a change of venue is necessary to ensure a fair trial," Schnirman wrote in an affidavit.
The city opposed the motion along with Mandel, who argued his position with the court working in child victim cases was not related to the city’s case.
"While Defendant is trying to deflect from his own actions, it is clear that he is desperately trying to avoid and deprive a Nassau County jury from hearing the full scope of his culpability by creating a false and baseless conflict in an attempt to change venue," Mandel said in an affidavit.
Agostisi’s attorney Rick Ostrove said he would continue to ask for the case to be moved out of Nassau County.
"I understand why the City wants to litigate this case in a courthouse where a city council member has worked for years. However, fundamental fairness dictates that this should be decided in another courthouse, free from any potential undue influence," Ostrove said in a statement.