At the April 15 meeting of the Lynbrook village board of trustees, several residents questioned Trustee Hilary Becker about an attorney representing the Preserve Lynbrook Party who has filed a Freedom of Information Law request seeking all documents related to the March 19 election.
Howard Colton, who is the Freeport village attorney, also represents the Preserve Lynbrook Party — which comprised Becker and losing trustee candidates Antoniella Tavella and Steve Ligouri. Colton made the FOIL request from his private practice.
Reached by phone, Colton confirmed that he asked for the documents, but declined to say on whose behalf, citing attorney-client privilege. “I made the request,” he said. “As for the reasons why, I have clients that requested this information. It was as simple as that.”
At the meeting, Becker said he was not the one who asked Colton to act, and added that he was unsure who did. After a combative race, Mayor Alan Beach defeated Becker on Election Day, 3,330 votes to 974, and then replaced him as deputy mayor with Trustee Michael Hawxhurst. Beach’s running mates, Trustees Ann Marie Reardon and Robert Boccio, also won their races handily.
Colton is seeking copies of all ballots cast in the election, all tapes and receipts from voting machines, all files that show photos of each ballot cast, a list of all those who voted and a list of all employees who worked at the Greis Park Recreation Center polling place on Election Day.
Several residents took Becker to task at the meeting, despite his denial of any involvement in the request. One, Jim Hunter, said it would be best for the village if officials moved on after a tumultuous campaign.
“We have this ongoing problem with people who haven’t accepted the results of the election,” Hunter said. “. . . As a result of [Colton’s] actions, we have this open wound that continues to fester.” Then Hunter addressed Becker. “I’m going to ask you to please ask your supporters to cease and desist of these efforts,” he said, “and let the village heal from this very difficult campaign.”
Resident Kathy Bien asked how much it would cost the village to respond to the request, and Village Clerk John Giordano said that Colton had asked that the more than 4,000 documents he is seeking be sent electronically, so the village could not charge him, as there was no paper cost involved. Colton said that villages usually have FOIL requests built into their budgets, so he did not believe there would be a cost to taxpayers. He added that he paid $68 when he submitted the request. But Giordano explained that fulfilling the request would mean paying village employees to gather the information.
Resident Michael Canty asked Becker several questions at the meeting, including whether he had asked Colton to file the request, whether he had anyone ask Colton to act on his behalf and whether he had any reason to believe the election was tainted. Becker answered no to each one, and said that the belief that Colton was acting on his behalf was “inaccurate.” Canty then asked Becker if he would advise Colton to stop challenging the legitimacy and accuracy of the election results, which Becker said he would.
After the meeting, Beach told the Herald that he believed the request was unnecessary. “I don’t think 77.3 percent warrants any FOILs,” he said, referring to the percentage of the vote that he received. “It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.”