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Nassau attorney: No conflict of interest in LIPA tax case

As arguments continued in Nassau Supreme Court Thursday over disputed property tax payments by the Long Island Power Authority, Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey delivered a “trust me” message to county Democrats concerned about possible conflicts of interest by the law firm representing Nassau and LIPA.

Democratic legislative counsel Peter Clines had emailed Foskey on Wednesday, noting that the county was being represented by the law firm Rivkin Radler, or more specifically, partner William Savino, in the court case in which more than 40 Nassau school districts have sued the county and LIPA, alleging the power authority has underpaid its first half school property taxes.

LIPA maintains it is following state statute, interpreting the law to say that the power authority will make payments in lieu of taxes but any increases are limited to 2 percent annually. The county and the school districts contend that LIPA has underestimated the amount it has to pay by basing its payments on the calendar year rather than the school year.

Clines noted in his email that Rivkin Radler also represents LIPA in three active cases in Nassau Supreme Court, as well as three active cases in Suffolk Supreme Court.

“Given the adverse position of the county and LIPA . . . Rivkin’s concurrent representation of both the county parties and of LIPA appears to involve the firm in a clear conflict of interest,” Clines wrote. “Absent informed consent from the relevant clients, we believe the Rivkin firm would be subject to disqualification in this matter. Accordingly we request that you inform us whether there has been a purported informed consent to this conflicted representation by or on behalf of the Legislature and provide us with written documentation of any purported consent and the legal authority for the grant of any purported consent.”

Foskey wrote back Thursday: “Rest assured that the issue of a conflict of interest has been thoroughly vetted. I take my fiduciary and ethical obligations to my client, the entire Nassau County government, most seriously. I am satisfied that the issue has been appropriately addressed and that Rivkin may properly continue to represent our interests.”

An administration spokesman said Thursday that both the county and LIPA agreed to give Rivkin a waiver to represent the county in this case, which is continuing, and that LIPA was using a different law firm.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano worked for Rivkin before becoming county executive in 2010.


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