O.C. Democratic Legislators Are Fighting Back

GOSHEN – Four Orange County legislators, who were denied legal defense from a potential lawsuit arising from their raising questions about the StarCIO contract with the county for information technology services, Monday filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court challenging a decision by the county not to indemnify them.

Legislature Chairwoman Katie Bonelli had denied defense as required by Local Law 3 of 1998, said their attorney, Michael Sussman.

Last October, legislators Michael Paduch, the Democratic minority leader, Genesis Ramos, Laurie Tautel and Mike Anagnostakis, participated in a news conference by Senator James Skoufis (D, Cornwall) to raise questions about the propriety of a contract given to the owner of StarCIO for information technology services.

The owner is a relative of County Human Resources Commissioner Langdon Chapman.

In late January, the owner of StarCIO filed a notice of claim against the legislators prompting them to seek the county to provide legal representation. Bonelli denied their request.

Bonelli denied the request saying that her fellow legislators were not acting in their official capacities when they spoke about the contract and that their comments were “political” in nature. She also said that portions of the presentation at the news conference contained information that was untrue and that the legislators didn’t make their request for legal representation within a specified 10 day window.

The attorney for the four legislators who brought the issue forward is Goshen civil rights lawyer Michael Sussman.

“We need elected officials who are holding people’s feet to the fire. We will lose our democracy and that’s not hyperbole and that is certainly true at every level in the United States right now, certainly in Orange County as well,” he said.

A special legislative committee concluded the contract was extended in violation of county procurement policies, but said no legalities were committed.

“My clients sought to bring to light issues with the contracting process,” said Sussman. “This report validates their claim.”

A special legislative committee convened by Bonelli concluded the contract with StarCIO had violated the county’s procurement policy. The report indicates that while the contract was improperly procured and administered, there was nothing illegal about the arrangement.

“My clients sought to bring to light issues with the contracting process,” said Sussman. “This report validates their claim.”

Sussman said but for the fact his clients brought forward the issue, the legislature would have never convened an investigation committee to look into the contract, which the committee ultimately determined was not properly procured.

The petitioners also pointed to the ongoing FBI criminal investigation into the StarCIO contract as validation that their actions in bringing the matter to light were justified. The FBI has not yet made the results of its investigation public.

The Goshen attorney said if the StarCIO attorney does file a lawsuit, “my clients welcome the chance to defend themselves to gain and reveal further information concerning this procurement process and the use of the funds received, more than $800,000, following the execution of a contract of $65,000, done without formal bidding because it was, allegedly, for a sum of less than $100,000.”

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