North Hempstead Town will provide in-house legal counsel to its board of zoning and appeals, officials said Wednesday, even though two Nassau County law firms applied for the position to replace former board attorney Gerard Terry.
“We did an RFP [request for proposals] and have not made an award,” town spokeswoman Carole Trottere said. “For now we are staffing the BZA in-house.”
Senior Deputy Town Attorney Mitchell Pitnick will continue to advise the board.
The town had accepted applications from Jaspan Schlesinger LLP, of Garden City, and Humes & Wagner LLP, of Locust Valley.
Jaspan Schlesinger’s hourly rates include $235 for the town to work with firm partners, between $200 and $210 to work with associates, and $100 for working with paralegals, according to documents filed with the town. Humes & Wagner charges $275 per hour to work with partners, $225 per hour to work with non-partner attorneys, and $155 per hour to work with paralegals, according to documents it submitted.
Terry was paid nearly $75,000 last year as the board’s attorney and as outside counsel to the Town Attorney’s Office. He was charged in April with felony tax fraud by Nassau prosecutors and has pleaded not guilty. Newsday reported in January that he had compiled an income tax debt of nearly $1.4 million and had let his attorney registration lapse while working for the town. Town officials released Terry from his North Hempstead positions after Newsday’s report.
Jaspan Schlesinger has for many years represented North Hempstead in a tax case involving the repayment of funds to utility companies. North Hempstead sued Nassau County for reimbursements of the payments.
In their applications, attorneys for both firms cited their experience serving as counsel to land-use boards on Long Island, as well as their appearances throughout the New York State Court System.
The Jaspan Schlesinger application disclosed there is “an inquiry” by the Charity Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s office into the relationship between partner Steven R. Schlesinger, a prominent Democratic attorney, and the Kermit Gitenstein Foundation, Inc.
Newsday reported in January that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District had opened an inquiry into the Kermit Gitenstein Foundation, which Schlesinger has managed since 2007. In May, a Nassau County Court judge removed Schlesinger from the court-appointed position, noting that he had spent more than $8 million of foundation funds without the court’s approval.
The firm also listed four zoning board of appeals cases that would pose a “potential” conflict of interest for the firm.
Humes & Wagner noted that two partners serve as attorneys for the Village of Plandome and Roslyn Harbor, and would recuse themselves if cases involved those villages.