After several days of criticism over potential conflicts of interest, attorney John Curran and his firm, Walden Macht & Haran, have withdrawn from serving as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board’s outside counsel, according to a letter Curran sent to MTA chief executive Pat Foye on Friday.
Curran, the husband of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, and his firm had a contract with the MTA to earn as much as $240,000 as the board’s outside counsel. The move raised questions about why the MTA board needed an outside counsel and why Curran would be the right choice. A Newsday editorial Thursday criticized the choice, saying the MTA should reevaluate the decision to hire an outside counsel and choose someone without the appearance of conflicts because of his spouse's role as a public official who deals with the MTA.
According to the letter, which was obtained by Newsday, Curran talked with Foye about the decision to withdraw on Thursday. In the letter, Curran referred to concerns reported in the media — seemingly about the conflicts — as “baseless.”
“While we believe we 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,” the letter said.
Curran said his firm would not bill the MTA for any work since the contract was still “at the earliest stage.”
Laura Curran had campaigned against Republican patronage and nepotism, and has made that a focus of her time in office.
"I believe because of what I'm trying to accomplish and separately what the MTA is trying to accomplish, I don’t want to distract from that," Laura Curran told the Newsday editorial board in an interview Friday.
MTA officials earlier this week had defended the choice, saying Curran was experienced and qualified, and that they expected he could remain independent.
“John is an extremely talented attorney,” MTA spokeswoman Abbey Collins said in a statement Friday. “We respect the decision and wish him well.”
No word yet on whether the MTA board will go forward with hiring someone else as outside counsel, but it’s unlikely any future choice will be related to a county executive.