The husband of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Friday withdrew from his role as a legal adviser for the MTA board after accusations of conflict of interest.
John F. Curran wrote in a letter to MTA chairman Patrick Foye that although he and his Manhattan law firm, Walden Macht & Haran LLP, “could have been very helpful in our intended role, we take this step in order to prevent baseless assertions in the press from unnecessarily distracting the Board and the MTA as it does its important work.”
Curran declined to elaborate on what the “baseless assertions” were, but said in an interview Friday that he and his firm were well-qualified for the job. Critics of the firm's appointment said it would have affected Laura Curran’s ability to oppose Metropolitan Transportation Authority policies and actions and stand up for Nassau Long Island Rail Road commuters.
“I’ve been a lawyer for 33 years, and I’ve been at the top of my field throughout,” said John Curran, a partner at Walden Macht & Haran.
Walden Macht & Haran would have earned up to $240,000 a year under the contract, Curran and the MTA said. Curran said he would have been the main attorney advising the MTA board, but that other Walden Macht & Haran lawyers may have provided legal counsel as well. The contract was executed on Oct. 30, according to the MTA.
The spokesman for the County Legislature’s Republican majority, Chris Boyle, said in an email Friday that John Curran “was right to resign.”
"After campaigning against patronage and nepotism, the County Executive got caught doing exactly what she accused others of doing,” he wrote. “This is just another example of the County Executive saying one thing and doing another. The hiring of Mr. Curran by the MTA was a clear conflict of interest for Nassau taxpayers.”
John Curran said he “could not foresee a conflict with the duties of the county executive” as a legal adviser to the board but that if one had arisen, he would have recused himself from that matter.
“She had nothing to do with this,” Curran said of his wife. “This was between my firm and the board of the MTA. As we say in the letter, we think we could have given really good service.”
Laura Curran said in a statement that her “husband is an accomplished attorney who, for his entire career, has relied purely on his merits alone. That was the case during his discussions with the MTA.”
But, she wrote, echoing her husband’s letter, that “his involvement with the MTA has become a distraction. As such, I understand why it is necessary that he and the MTA end their relationship so we can continue to focus on our critical work.”
John Curran said in his letter that his firm had not billed — and will not bill — the MTA for legal services under the agreement “as the requested services were at the earliest stage.”
An MTA source said Friday it's too soon to say whether the board will search for another attorney and firm to advise the board.