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Partly Cloudy,60°
Monday, October 20, 2014
Ethics complaint filed against council members
Officials dismiss claims that law firm was hired for providing free legal services
Herald file photo

The Nassau County District Attorney is reviewing an ethics violation claim by former City Council President Jim Hennessy against three current council members, alleging that they accepted free legal services from a law firm that was granted a contract with the city last year.

City officials dismissed allegations that the services were a “gift,” saying that the claim has no merit.

Hennessy, who served in the Republican-led coalition from 2004 to 2008, filed the charges on Monday, against Democratic council members Scott Mandel, Fran Adelson and Len Torres, with the Long Beach Ethics Board and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. Hennessy claimed that the three may have received $10,000 worth of free legal services from Harris Beach PLLC — where Tom Suozzi, a candidate for Nassau County executive, is a member of the firm’s corporate practice — that was not reported to the Board of Ethics or the State Board of Elections.

In November 2011, the previous administration was forced to borrow $2.5 million in anticipation of a number of police and other retirements. Hennessy said that Mandel, Adelson, Torres — who won seats on the council in the election that month — and former Councilman Mike Fagen were represented by Harris Beach from December 2011 through January 2012, when they filed an injunction aimed at preventing the previous administration from awarding the retirement payments, including a $500,000 payout to former Acting Police Commissioner Tom Sofield Sr., amid a staggering cash-flow shortage. A judge ultimately denied the request.

Hennessy said that in February 2012 — a month after Adelson, Mandel and Torres took office and 21 days after Harris Beach withdrew the claim — the city hired the firm to help it form a local economic development corporation, and paid Harris Beach PLLC over $13,000. Hennessy claims that under the city’s charter, council members were required to disclose relationships with any firm that did business with the city in 2012 by May 15, 2013, but Mandel, Adelson and Torres never did.

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