The Glen Cove City Council split along partisan lines to retain current City Attorney Charles McQuair for the coming year. The vote, which was for an entire bloc of reappointments including McQuair’s, was decided in a brief council meeting immediately following the mayor and council’s inauguration on Jan. 1.
Both City Councilwoman Marsha Silverman and Mayor Timothy J. Tenke voted against the measure. Silverman said, “The process should be subject to the same RFP approach that is typical of the way all public departments work.” She stressed that the no vote was “not intended as a criticism of the current incumbent,” who had been appointed by outgoing mayor Reginald Spinello. “The RFP process is a way of ensuring we get the most cost-effective and efficient means of conducting the public’s business.”
Silverman had favored renewing the appointment for a shorter period. “A 60- to 90-day reappointment would have avoided disrupting the city’s business, but it would have given us time to complete the RFP process,” she said.
At the same time, the council is considering whether to continue retaining various law firms that currently advise the planning commission and the zoning board, among other city departments. “It’s the same issue,” Silverman said. “These may turn out to be the very best people and firms for the job,” she said.” But we won’t know that if we don’t look.”
At present, special counsel may be retained for special projects, such as the Garvies Point development. These contracts can be worth six or seven figures in billable hours to firms competing for the business. The city does not set a cap on the amount of the retainers and attorneys may charge the city less than they do private clients.
Silverman said she “couldn’t hazard a guess” as to how many private law firms do business with the city, although the cost is in the millions. But “I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be more cost-effective to have our interests represented by fewer firms in a more focused way.”