The city extended the contracts of 11 law firms that handle various cases for the municipality in state and federal courts for $301,200.
City council members approved extending the contracts through Oct. 31, 2018 in a 7-1 vote on Tuesday night.
Flavio Rivera voted against extending the contracts after questioning the extension for Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala & Taylor of Parsippany, a firm that has ties with business administrator Vaughn McKoy.
McKoy works works part-time as an “of counsel” on an as needed basis for the firm, according to Elnardo Webster, a partner at Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala & Taylor.
Rivera sought a legal opinion from the city’s chief attorney Khalifah Shabazz.
“We’re well aware of the issue. We’re researching those specific issues,” Shabazz told the council. She suggested there is no conflict of interest because the firm had been doing business with the city for many years.
“I believe they have been representing the city for well-over 10 years,” said Shabazz. McKoy was brought on as business administrator in Jul. 2018.
“Are you saying that there’s no conflict?” asked council president Maritza Davila.
Shabazz was apprehensive in providing a clear opinion to the council for fear of exposing the city to litigation.
Lilisa Mimms, councilwoman at-large, suggested tabling the measure. Shabazz said this won’t resolve the issue. It will mean the firm continues to work for the city, said Shabazz. Some of the contracts expired in June.
“Mr. BA, do you have any affiliation [with this law firm]. Are you currently working for them?” asked Al Abdelaziz, 6th Ward councilman.
Shabazz intervened before McKoy could answer. She said some of the discussion could result in other attorneys potentially seeking the city’s business to levy accusations or take legal actions against the city.
“I can argue with a very straight face that there is no conflict,” said Shabazz. She said the contracted lawyers report directly to her and not the business administrator.
The measure extends the contracts for the 11 firms and allows the administration to seek proposals to award future legal contracts.
Rivera said he wants an opinion before the city seeks proposals to award new contracts.
“It’s just not a good look as a city,” said Rivera. “It’s just not a good look.”
The Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala & Taylor firm was one of two firms to each receive a $210,000 contract from the school district last week through an unsolicited proposal. The other was Hunt, Hamlin, and Ridley.
The council extended the contracts for the 11 firms through Oct. 31, 2018. A list of the extended contract amounts and firm names are below:
- $60,000 Gilmore and Monahan
- $45,200 Buglione, Hutton & DeYoe
- $40,000 Steven S. Glickman
- $22,500 Lite, DePalma & Greenberg
- $22,500 Sciro & Marotta
- $22,500 Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala & Taylor
- $22,500 Adam, Gutierrez & Lattiboudere
- $22,500 Florio and Kenny
- $22,500 Goldenberg, Mackler, Sayegh, Mintz, Pfeffer, Bonchi & Gill
- $12,500 Archer & Greiner
- $8,500 Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt, & Cappelli.
Mayor Andre Sayegh said he does not have any connection to the Goldenberg, Mackler, Sayegh, Mintz, Pfeffer, Bonchi & Gill firm on Wednesday morning.
Sayegh is a common Arab surname. It means goldsmith.
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